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Hello and thank you for your question. I am a Veterinary Nurse with over 15 years experience and I have assisted in the care of many pets with this particular medical concern. It would be my pleasure to assist you today. Is it possible for me to obtain some additional information from you about your companion?
1) Is Bella currently on or has she ever been on any medication to help with storm anxiety?2) If so, please list what it was and how long it was used.3) Has a thunder shirt been tried yet?
Yes, it doesn't appear that it had come through if you replied last night.Are the main sources of worry her behavior during the storms and also the fact that she is getting on the bed without permission?Did I also understand correctly that no prescription medications have yet been tried?Has Bella had any formal training? Also, has she ever been kennel trained?
The first thing I want to mention is that her behavior is suggestive of anxiety as well as the storm/firework fear. One thing you should most certainly talk to your vet about is using medication for these fears. I highly recommend alprazolam. It is prescription but it is one of the best medications that I have seen used for these types of fears. It tends to smooth a dog's reactions to these and is typically given and hour or two before the onset of the fireworks or storm activity. Many dogs will have behavioral changes even before storms begin and if she's one of them then she can have a dose of medication to help with anxiety when those behaviors start.I cannot impress enough the importance of setting boundaries within the home. By the sound of it, she's been allowed to convey her preference to you and your family (I don't want to be in the kennel, I don't want to stay in my bed, I want to be in your bed, etc) and it is progressively getting worse because boundaries are not set. Although it does sound like she was exhibiting anxious behavior, it's working through these and not simply allowing a pet to do as they wish simply because of their behavior otherwise. This, in a different example, is much like a parent allowing their child to sleep with them because the child feels more secure there. Although this is not harmful behavior for a single night or two, it can easily develop into dependance and eventually it becomes next to impossible to get the child not only to stay in their bed but to sleep in their bed as well. That's what needs to happen with Bella: she MUST have boundaries set and everyone in the family must adhere to them. There are quiet a few situations where passive boundaries will lead to anxious behavior in dogs. Dogs do quite well with firm boundaries because they have an assertive owner (assertive does not mean aggressive or mean, but simply one who has an expectation of the dog and expects the dog to meet the expectation).I would urge you to begin training immediately for "off" which should be rewarded when Bella gets on the bed or attempts to get on the bed. She should be redirected to her bed or other area that is worthy of your satisfaction and then given a treat. Some owners like to use clicker training for this method because they can click on the correct behavior and mark that for their pet. This often makes for fast training when the dog learns exactly what the behavior is that they should be doing (we click for positive behaviors and not negative, always aim to reward what she is doing right and not punish what she's doing incorrectly). It would also be worthwhile to instill more boundaries for her all over, but this is open to you and your family on what can be done. Whatever you choose, you MUST stick to your guns. If getting on the bed is not tolerated, do not permit it to happen. Correct her and direct her elsewhere at the first sign of her getting on the bed. If she's apt to get on your bed when you are not at home or not in bed, close the bedroom door. Do not permit her to have access to self-rewarding behavior when you are gone. Prevent everything that you can when working on behavior modification. If you do wish to continue to other areas of her life, I recommend the Nothing In Life is Free approach which sets firm boundaries. Here's a good explanation of NILIF and anxious dogs: http://shibashake.com/dog/nothing-in-life-is-free-dog-trainingLet me know if I can help further.