Calming Your Dog During A Thunderstorm
We recently had a nasty thunderstorm in the middle of the night here in the Albany, N.Y. area that rocked my apartment building and boasted a light show to rival fireworks on the Fourth of July. And it’s not even May yet.
My cats are pretty much unaffected when severe weather sweeps through but it’s a different story for dogs. There are theories out there as to why thunderstorms terrify some pooches, including dogs’ sensitivity to barometric pressure drops and the Earth’s electromagnetic charge. Or how static electricity builds up in their coats during a thunderstorm and causes shocks when they make contact with the wrong surface.
As interesting as those theories are, I’d rather focus on what we can do to minimize the anxiety for our four-legged friends.
Here are some ways to calm a dog during a thunderstorm:
- Establish a safe place indoors for your pet to go during a storm. They may feel comforted by finding refuge in their crate or a small room with an area that is grounded against electric shocks, such as the bathroom. Research has revealed that nearly half of storm-phobic dogs in a study sought out the bathroom as their preferred hiding place.
- Close all windows and doors to keep your home as quiet as possible during the storm.
- Don’t mirror or exaggerate their fear. The best thing you can do is speak to them in a calm voice and behave as if everything is normal and okay. Lead them to their safe space or distract them with a fun activity.
- Play with your pooch. This kind of distraction during a thunderstorm will work for some dogs. Take their focus off the storm with their favorite game, such as fetch or tug of war.
- Fit them with either an anti-static jacket or a Thundershirt. These are two different pieces of attire. The antistatic jacket does as the name implies and purportedly calms the dog by diminishing the electric charge in their coats resulting from the storm. Light pressure from a Thundershirt is thought to reduce anxiety in a stressed dog. Ask local pet supply shops in Albany and Rensselaer counties or your pet’s veterinarian for more information about either of these items.
- Ask your pet’s vet for advice on which approach is best to deal with your pet’s anxiety. In some cases, anxiety medication may be recommended. But your vet can offer expertise on behavior modification techniques and other calming tips best suited to your pooch.
For some pet parents, familiarizing their dog with playful activities while subtly playing audio of recorded thunderstorms may have favorable results. If your dog starts to associate thunderstorms with positive playtime you have won their battle with anxiety.
However, there are reports of dogs with such severe anxiety associated with thunderstorms that they have dug and chewed their way through drywall and crashed through sliding glass doors. Clearly, a veterinarian in the Albany and Troy, NY area (https://www.yelp.com/search?cflt=vet&find_loc=Troy%2C+NY) should be consulted to help animals suffering from extreme anxiety such as this.
It’s important to remember that your pooch’s fear is real and that punishing them or acting negatively will only reinforce their phobia. With patience and the help of experts it’s possible to turn their thunderstorm fear around!