A reader writes in with this question:
My corgi mix is frightened of thunder and the vacuum cleaner. I need advice on how to deal with both these issues. East Coast thunderstorms last for hours, with rolling thunder, and I don’t want to keep him drugged all the time. When I put him in the dog run to vacuum the house, he digs and chews the bottom of the fence to get away from the sound. I’ve considered the thunder jacket for storms and getting a muzzle and dog cage for the vacuuming.
I used to love the Fourth of July — until I got dogs!
The noise from screamers and cherry bombs terrifies them, especially the older ones and the hard-of-hearing. I’m not sure why sound affects these guys more than the younger dogs; perhaps the vibrations from the booming scare the ones who are used to a much quieter world. Or maybe our pups lose their bravado when they pass the bratty teen years.
Regardless of the reason, dogs don’t seem to care for loud, scary noises — and who could blame them? I’m not fond of them either. Here’s my advice for noise-sensitive dogs.
Crates and Calming Solutions
You already have some great ideas about how to manage the problem. As a short-term solution, I recommend getting a crate and confining your corgi to it when you vacuum or when it rains. Of course, you’ll need to crate train him first, or the crate will become a scary place, too.
Other short-term solutions include a homeopathic calming solution, like Rescue Remedy, as well as the thunder jacket you mentioned (affiliate link). I advise against a muzzle, as it will only traumatize him further when he struggles to bark and can’t make a sound.
Desensitizing a Pet to Noise
The long-term solution to your corgi’s reaction to noise is to desensitize him to it, and the best way to do that is to teach him to associate noise with something positive, like treats.
Start with vacuuming. Does he run away as soon as he sees it? Put a leash on him and walk him into the room where the vacuum is, making sure not to turn it on right away. As soon as he responds negatively to the sight of the vacuum, sit on the floor next to him, holding his leash, and make calm, soothing noises while you pet him. Give him a few treats.
Once he calms down a little, turn on the vacuum for a few seconds while you give him more treats. Over time, keep the vacuum on for longer periods of time, feeding him treats, until he isn’t as reactive.
This Works with Thunder, Too
Try this same technique when it thunders. Dose him with Rescue Remedy, slip his comfort wrap on him, sit next to him and give him treats. Speak to him in soothing tones as you pet him.
You can also talk to your vet about acepromazine, a mild sedative you can keep on hand when your calming techniques don’t work. When the clouds start piling up and a thunderstorm is imminent, give him one pill. It won’t completely dampen his fear, but it will help tremendously.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee these techniques will work. However, with consistent practice and a little time, your corgi should respond less to loud noises.