With the approaching storm tonight, we thought it appropriate to repost this article:
It is not unusual for people to be afraid of thunderstorms…so why should it be any surprise that dogs may be afraid of them as well. Signs that your dog may be anxious about an approaching or current thunderstorm include panting, trembling, pacing, cowering, hiding, destructive behavior and “potty” accidents.
And don’t be surprised if your dog senses a storm coming before you do. Dogs can be especially sensitive to the changes in barometric pressure so they may start showing the warning signs of anxiety before you even know the storm is approaching.
Many experts recommend you do not encourage your dogs’ fears by comforting them during a storm. We disagree to a certain extent. If a family member is scared, of course you should comfort them and your dog is absolutely a part of your family. Allowing your dog to rest up against your leg or giving a petting or belly rubbing session could give the dog the comfort he or she needs. However, if your 120 pound dog all of a sudden crawls up in your lap or some other line is crossed, you may need to try some other options.
Here are 10 suggestions that might make a thunderstorm a more pleasant experience for your whole family:
- Dogs, like children, absolutely play off your emotions. If you are scared of the storm, many members (both two and four legged) may join you in your fear.
- While talking to your dog, keep your voice happy and calm. Even if comforting words are being spoken, if there is apprehension there, your dog will not be convinced all is fine.
- See if your dog responds to background noise. Try the television or different types of music. Soothing music may be best, but like people, dogs may enjoy different genres.
- Provide your dog with a safe place. Some dogs like to be under the bed, kitchen table, or other piece of furniture. Others may prefer a dark room, closet, or even the shower or bathtub. It may be as easy as leaving their crate open and allowing them to relax there, but these other suggestions might give you some options.
- Some dogs may just need a good long hug. The closeness and calmness of you may be enough to calm their nerves and get them through the worst of the storm.
- Do your best to distract your dog with his or her favorite game or toy. Keep their mind off the storm with a long game of fetch or teaching them a new trick.
- Keep “special” treats on hand just for storms. If there are treats your dog normally does not get that he or she is especially fond of, he or she may learn to look forward to a storm rather than fear it.
- Some suggest wrapping your dog up. Similar to the sometimes calming effects of swaddling in an infant, wrapping your dog with a t-shirt or an Ace bandage may help them to remain relaxed during a storm.
- If your dog becomes particularly agitated or destructive during a storm, it may be time to talk to your vet. They may be able to prescribe a mild sedative to keep your dog calm. You could also ask your vet about the use of Melatonin, which is a natural herbal supplement typically used by people experiencing insomnia. However, it is important to get a solid recommendation from your vet about the use, dosage and brand of supplement of Melatonin to give your dog as some pills may be mixed with other vitamins and size of the dog definitely matters when using this supplement.
- If you want to try a proactive approach to prevent further fear of storms, pick up a thunderstorm cd or find a storm soundtrack on YouTube. Play the cd at a very low volume level and see how your dog reacts. Use some of the tricks listed above if your dog becomes agitated during the cd. Continue the process at higher volume levels until your dog seems more comfortable. You’ll know if you’ve made any progress when the next Spring or Summer storm rolls around.
We wish you the best of luck in dealing with thunderstorm anxiety during this storm season. Do your best to remain patient with whatever unusual behavior your four-legged pal may display and keep in mind all the time you dog has been understanding of your fears or high levels of emotion.