Your dog and thunderstorms – how you can help
It’s quite common for a lot of dogs to be scared of storms, but when it becomes a real phobia , it can be very distressing to see as an owner.
The weather can trigger anxiety in our furry friends. And this doesn’t just include young pups.
Even the oldest, bravest dogs can cower at the sound of thunder, showing us that they too can be vulnerable.
If this sounds like your dog, here are a few tips that can help. In this article we’re talking about all things thunder: from why dogs are so freaked out by it, to the many things you can do to help them conquer these fears.
Why are dogs scared of thunderstorms?
Thunderstorms are one of the most common phobias for dogs, but why? You will soon find out that there could be multiple reasons and some may be more obvious to us humans than others.
Well, vets have come to the conclusion that this is largely because dogs have heightened senses. As such, the sound of thunder is magnified for dogs, making it all the more scary.
Noise in general is a common anxiety trigger for dogs, and the noise of thunder combined with its unpredictable sound pattern and occasional flashes of lightning make it quite unsettling. Dogs also cannot understand where the noise comes from making it even more frightening for them. If you add to this the sound of the wind as well as the rain falling on a roof, it is easy to understand why they would get worried.
On top of that, our dogs also have psychic abilities. Well, kind of.
Because they’re so connected to their senses, they’re able to smell and feel when a storm is on its way before us humans even feel a drizzle of rain. They can detect the low rumbling and frequency sound of thunder before it’s made itself heard, and they can sense changes in the air / barometric pressure.
This anticipation adds to their fear, causing them to freak out when the storm finally arrives.
And if this wasn’t already enough, some dogs actually feel static shocks during thunderstorms. This is because storms emit an electric charge which some dogs can feel through their fur, and let’s be honest, this would be terrifying even for humans. Dogs with long, thick and double coats seems to be most prone to feeling a build up of static electricity
Whilst it’s hard to think about our beautiful fur babies shivering with anxiety, the good news is that not all dogs are scared of thunderstorms. In fact, these fears are also dictated by other factors, such as age, breed and prior experience.
But if your pup happens to be scared of storms, there are many ways to manage their stress, which we’ll be discussing soon.
Increased light in the sky
Dogs can go a little crazy when there's more light than normal in the sky. Just like humans, they rely on the trusty combination of sunlight in the day and moonlight at night to steady their sleep system.
When there's more light in the sky due to lightening, urban lights or even a full moon, you may notice your dog becomes more on edge and anxious.
What are some of the signs of Thunderstorm Phobia?
As a pet parent, you may witness your pet behaving differently leading and during thunderstorms. They can become anxious, destructive, reclusive, clingy, hyperactive or even harm themselves. Here are some of the specific signs: :
- Barking, howling or whining
- Restless pacing
- Hiding in confined spaces
- Destructing behaviour (usually scratching to try to hide)
- Trembling or shaking
6 tips for soothing your pup during a thunderstorm
#1. Keep calm
During a storm, show your dog there’s nothing to be scared of by staying calm and collected yourself. Don’t try too hard to soothe them, because this will validate their fears. If you act like everything is fine, they’ll realise there’s no real threat and they’ll start to relax.
#2. Distract them
Distract your dog from the loud rumbles of thunder by giving them something new to focus on. Play a game or watch a show with your furry friend. Once they start having a bit of distraction, the storm will become nothing but background noise.
And if keeping them busy isn’t enough, you can try to distract them even more by creating background or white noise to help cover up some of the sounds of the storm or by turning on the TV. Some even say that classical music can also help relax our pets.
#3. Create a safe place
In human psychology, when we experience anxiety, it's recommended that we go to our “happy place” in our heads. We can create this happy place for our dogs in real life by setting up a space for them to go when they’re feeling anxious.
Whether this is your bed, a hidden dark area, a closet, a crate with a towel on top or a room with toys, create a place that will soothe your pup. If you’re not sure how to identify and create this space, let your dog guide you. Usually, dogs will show you where they feel the most safe, as they’ll run to certain areas when they’re anxious. If your pup has already chosen their sanctuary, try to make this space even more inviting and comforting.
#4. See your vet
If storm-related anxiety is an ongoing problem, don’t be afraid to reach out to your vet. Vets can recommend products and therapies that could help your pup better manage their anxiety. For example, there are calming jackets & wraps that could help your dog by providing constant pressure during storms which will have a soothing effect. There are also some supplements that exist to help dogs better manage their stress and anxiety which could be very useful to assist with storm phobias.
#5 Talk to a qualified dog behaviourist
If your dog is very fearful of thunderstorms, you may want to consider enrolling the help of a canine behaviourist and working with them (outside of storm timings) on behavioural modification techniques. Examples of these could be desensitisation (by exposing your dog to a stressful situation at a low level) or counter conditioning (by exposing your dog to gradually more intense levels of the “stressor” and positively rewarding to keep your pet relaxed).
#6. Be proactive
If the weather reports indicate that a storm is nearing, prepare in advance. Try to get your dog inside early and keep them occupied before they realise that thunder is brewing. This way, they won’t even know there’s a storm to be scared of.
Keep your pup calm no matter the weather
We know how horrible it is to watch your furry friends shiver with anxiety.
But luckily, you don’t have to feel helpless anymore.
Nectar’s Calm + Relax supplement can help sooth your fur baby, helping them better manage their anxiety even during stressful situations.
All you need to do is add Nectar powder supplement to your dog’s food as a healthy topper or dissolve in a bit of water for a hydrating snack. It is recommended to use Nectar daily for 14 days to be able to assess the full health benefits.
Thunderstorms don’t have to be scary for our dogs. With a little preparation and a lot of love, the calm before the storm will become the calm during the storm.Ready to give your pup some R&R? Try Calm + Relax today.