It’s hurricane season. We all know what that means, but your dog has no idea. Thunderstorms are bound to happen, and your dogs can sense them before we even know its coming. Dogs are more aware of their surroundings than humans. Detecting bad weather is one of their specialties. If your dog starts to bark or exhibit strange behavior, chances are somethings up. Simple science is behind why are dogs can sense a thunderstorm. Dogs are capable of detecting the barometric pressure drop, change in air pressure and electricity and any shift in the static electric field – all indications of unfavorable weather. Dogs can also hear the sounds of thunder before we can, so if you have a dog that has a phobia of thunderstorms, here are eight ways to calm your dog.
Easier said than done, right? You see your dog panting, pacing whining, or even becoming destructive with the onset of a thunderstorm. You worry about their psychological distress or physical harm they could be causing themselves during this highly stressful event. How do you handle dog fear and anxiety related to storms? Your first instinct is to call your dog over and coddle them to feel safe, and this the worse thing you can do. You want to create a calm space for your dog, and when you’re blatantly pandering, your dog is going to know this isn’t your normal behavior and freak out even more. The most you can do to lessen your dog’s anxiety is be home and be normal. For a dog who already fears thunderstorms, being alone will only worsen this fear.
Be Calm and Create Calmness
Act like nothing is happening. If your dog sees and senses you acting calm, this may trigger them to feel the same way. Give your dog the comfort and attention he or she needs without being too overly stimulating or emotional. The last thing you want to do is give the feeling that you are rewarding your dog for acting in this way. The best thing you can do is massage your dog and talk to them in a relaxed voice.
Be a Distraction
If your dog is not the type to sit still during this frightening event, provide positive stimulation like gentle petting, playing games, such as indoor fetch, a rope to tug on or a chew toy. Distractions will help calm your dog and keep their mind off the thunderstorm. It’s important to remember not to punish or ignore your dog during this time. It’s not their fault they are acting this way. External factors are causing them this anxiety and punishing them will likely only worsen the anxiety.
Don’t be a Safe Space. Create a Safe Space
Sometimes you have to let your dog go where he or she pleases. They’re intelligent enough to find the most sound-proof room in your home. Set up a bed or even a crate in this room for them. A crate is great because it acts as a natural, psychological defense for your dog, which can have incredible effects on their comfort levels. Closing the blinds and limiting visual stimulation for your dog during the storm is also a good way to calm them down.
Be Louder than the Storm
Most people don’t typically have a completely sound-proof room, so in a situation like this, compete with the noise by playing loud, calming music, or having the TV on or a white noise machine. All these techniques could help muffle the sound of the storm for your dog and help put them at ease.
Find Calming Remedies
Massaging and gentle petting are great ways to make your dog feel safe. For mild to moderate cases of storm anxiety, natural therapies like a thunder jacket give the impression that your dog is being swaddled and this may soothe them into a calmer state. You can also use holistic measures to promote relaxation like Bach flower, diffusing lavender oil and even using dog pheromones. Be sure to get these methods approved by your veterinarian before trying it with your dog.
Try to desensitize your dog by using a storm sound CD or clip from Youtube. This may sound like torture for your dog, but you’re helping them in the long run. Start by playing the thunderstorm sounds softly before increasing the volume over the course of several weeks. It may not completely rid them of their thunderstorm anxiety, but this preparation will help lessen their fears.
Talk to your Veterinarian
If you have a highly anxious dog with destructive tendencies, it’s time to pay a visit to your vet. Your veterinarian may discuss possible medicinal options. However, medicine should be your last resort when all desensitization efforts fail.
Storms can be stressful for dogs, but we hope these tips can help make your dog feel safe and at ease.