Nelson is your typical Pyr: beautiful, big, cuddly, sweet, confident and occasionally stubborn, with selective hearing. But should there be a storm, he instantly goes into panic mode and is shaking, panting and terrified. There doesn’t even have to be thunder and lightning, just the sound of a raindrop can put him over the edge. Unlike our other Pyrs, who only needed us to be close by even during a bad storm, Nelson is definitely a worst-case scenario.
Nelson has been with us for almost four years, and we have all learned to adjust and deal with his behavior. Fortunately, he’s taught us the signals of when to spring into action. It begins with his lifting up a front foot to tell us something is ‘wrong.’ We humans can’t detect what he is hearing and feeling until it’s close by, but Nelson is an early warning system, he can sense rain coming from many miles away. The immediate next step is to put on his Thundershirt, which he really likes. Yes, it works, but he also requires a slew of other support ‘tools’ that go along with it…two crates (his ‘normal’ one is very large and roomy; the one for storms is smaller and cozier, located in a darker corner, it’s his go-to ‘safe spot’), and two white noise machines (one next to his smaller crate, and one kept on at night in the bedroom, just in case.
When his storm anxiety first appeared (our first Spring together), our vet prescribed lorazepam as needed. But we could not anticipate before Nelson did when the storm was coming—even with constant monitoring of the radar, we couldn’t keep ahead of this, so it was basically useless. We then moved to a daily med (Buspirone), which has been a huge improvement, and is particularly helpful for the ongoing activity of loud parties, gunfire and almost-daily rainstorms in our lake area. It doesn’t totally remove the anxiety, but definitely takes it down a few notches to a manageable level. It also does not affect or change his personality in any way.
Of course fireworks will cause the same high-anxiety reaction and the same routine applies to help Nelson deal with it. Our other Pyr (Bonnie) could care less about rain or storms but does also react to fireworks…a normal amount of comforting is all she needs, though.