Weather Worries: How to Calm a Dog During a Storm
When storm clouds are brewing on the horizon, most people make sure their car windows are rolled up and their kids haven’t left anything out in the yard. You, however, have a sinking feeling because you know your precious pooch is in for a rough time.
Simply put, some dogs are afraid of storms. Signs of anxiety include clinging to their pet parents, pacing, panting, trembling, or hiding in small spaces. Dogs with a severe fear of storms may even try to dig through the wall or engage in other destructive behaviors.
While you can’t prevent storms, there are ways that you can help your best friend feel more safe and secure when the thunder rumbles. Let’s break down why our furry friends are scared of storms and what you can do to help keep your dog calm during a storm.
Why Are Dogs Scared of Storms?
It's not completely understood why dogs are so afraid of storms, though there are a few theories. One of the most common ideas why dogs are scared of thunder is because they know that loud noises can mean danger. As such, they have a natural instinct to look for shelter after loud cracks of thunder.
Another reason why the sounds of a storm may petrify your pooch is that dogs have far more sensitive hearing than humans. This sensitivity means that not only is the sound of thunder louder to them, but also that they’ll begin to hear it before you.
Another likely theory for your dog’s nervousness has to do with the static electricity produced by storms. Static electricity running through the dog's fur may create a strange, uncomfortable feeling, and potentially even lead up to painful shocks. Repeated instances of this can lead your dog to develop storm anxiety. After all, they don’t understand how to avoid the feeling or why this is happening.
Can Dogs Sense Storms?
You may have noticed that your dog gets anxious before the storm arrives. In addition to being able to hear the thunder from farther away, dogs are more sensitive to barometric pressure changes, static electricity, and can smell changes in the environment.
To us, it may seem that dogs can sense storms before they start. However, dogs are simply more sensitive and are already experiencing the storm before we do. In the case of dog storm anxiety, that means your furry friend may start to act nervous before you even know why.
Are Certain Dogs More Likely to Be Afraid of Storms?
While any canine can develop dog storm anxiety, some dogs are more likely to be more sensitive. For whatever reason, there seems to be a genetic predisposition in herding breeds like Australian Shepherds and Border Collies for developing noise phobia.
Herding breeds aren’t the only dogs more prone to storm anxiety. Larger dogs, dogs with long hair, or dogs with a double coat are more likely to be affected by the static electricity and may be more likely to develop an aversion to storms.
Even if your puppy doesn’t show signs of storm anxiety, it doesn’t mean they won’t develop it later. In fact, most dogs who react to thunderstorms develop issues after they are a year old or even older. Always keep a sharp eye out as storms approach to see how your dog is feeling.
Finally, dogs who are more naturally fearful may have issues with storms. Does your dog already exhibit other fearful behaviors, such as separation anxiety or hesitation around people? It's more likely that your dog will be afraid of storms as well.
What You Can Do to Calm Your Dog During a Storm
We’ve talked a lot about the challenges your dog faces during a thunderstorm – now it’s time to identify what you can do to make your dog feel calmer during a storm. Thankfully, there are several ways you can help your dog feel less anxious when thunder and lightning roll into your area.
Create a safe space for your dog
Dogs will often try to seek shelter under your bed or in the closet during a thunderstorm. The reason for this is because dogs are den animals and feel safer in a more enclosed environment.
Create a safe space for them that they know they can use any time. If your dog is crate trained, the crate can be a good place for them to ride out the storm. You’ll want to pick out the right type of dog crate for your furry friend, but the right space can be a comforting environment where they can hide.
Another way to comfort your dog is to give them a sound-proof room where they can get away from the loud cracks of thunder and other unsettling noises. Most of us don’t have totally sound-proof rooms in our homes, but you can find a room that’s quieter than the others. For example, basements are often a good choice as they are more insulated against sounds from outside.
If you don’t know the best place to put your dog, let them choose where they feel safest. Then you can set up the space comfortably with their bed, crate, or whatever else will help calm their anxiety.
Counter the storm with soothing sounds
It might not be possible to drown out the sounds of a thunderstorm, but you can muffle it to some extent. Try turning on the radio or playing a white noise machine for your dog. You can also get special dog-calming music that is really nice to listen to. This will both muffle the storm as well as give the dog something relaxing to enjoy.
Give your dog something to do
Bored dogs are more likely to act up, even when there isn’t a thunderstorm. Giving your dog something to do during the storm is a great way to help her get her mind off what is happening outside.
Licking and chewing are ways for dogs to calm themselves. That’s why you’ll find nervous pups chewing on your shoes or licking themselves excessively. Instead, give them a licking pad, a chew toy or some other item that they can gnaw on to distract themselves from the storm. This type of activity will help them remain calm and focus their nervous energy on less destructive practices.
Be there for them
You probably already know that you are your dog’s idol. Dogs have that wonderful way of putting their parents up on pedestals and loving every second they spend with them. That bond can help ease your furry friend when she’s scared of a storm.
The best gift you can give your dog during a scary thunderstorm is to be there by her side. She’s scared and your very presence is comforting to her. It’s also a good idea to talk to your dog in a soothing supportive manner when she’s scared – the sound of your voice can help ease her throughout the process.
Use a dryer sheet
This suggestion might sound a little strange, but there’s some logic behind it. If your dog’s anxiety is partly linked to static electricity in her fur, a dryer sheet can help ease anxiety by taking away the shocking stimulus.
Of course, you may be worried that the chemicals in dryer sheets weren’t made for this purpose. If you’re infrequently giving your dog a gentle, light wipe of the sheet to cut down on the static, expert agree that this should not pose a health issue. Keep the dryer sheet out of reach and be sure your dog does not eat it or chew on it. Choose an unscented brand to cut down on the chemicals as much as possible. However, if your dog is licks or grooms themselves a lot, or you live in an area with frequent storms, the next idea might be more appropriate.
Give your dog a jacket
Another solution is to wrap your dog up in an anti-static jacket or some other form of comforting wrap. These garments help cut down on the amount of static electricity in your dog’s fur as well as make them feel safe and snug, much like a swaddling wrap for a baby.
In fact, a big reason why people dress their dogs is to help with anxiety because many dogs find comfort in being held tightly. A jacket isn’t quite the same as a hug from their favorite human, but jackets, wraps, and sweaters can be a useful tool for relieving tension during a storm.
Try some other remedies if nothing else works
If nothing else seems to be working, you can try to use relaxing scents with your pet. Dogs can smell changes in the environment, so certain scents like a lavender candle and other soothing aromas can help ease anxiety both in humans and pets.
Anti-anxiety medication can also be a last resort if your furry friend is still struggling to deal with storms. Experts recommend trying everything else first, but if your dog is still suffering, medication can help improve their quality of life. Of course, you’ll absolutely want to consult with your veterinarian for their recommendation and to see if there are any other options for your dog.
Helping Your Dog with Storm Anxiety
Nobody wants to see their fur babies suffer during a thunderstorm. Fortunately, a little care and a few new tricks can help your dog more successfully weather loud storms.
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