As children, many of us dreaded that impending thunderstorm. The sound, the lights, the darkness… it could be very overwhelming. Luckily, as we grew older and began to understand weather – and perhaps with the help of an adult or someone with more knowledge than us – we began to understand the phenomena that are thunderstorms.
Unfortunately for our dogs, it is impossible to explain that they are safe, that they won’t be hurt and that they don’t need to be scared. Some of our dogs can really suffer emotionally at the hands of a bad thunderstorm and it is up to us to try to break that phobia and to work with them to help them get through it.
It has been proven that dogs are much more sensitive to changes in weather. They may sense the storm coming before you do. They have the ability to sense a change in the ozone, changes in humidity, changes in barometric pressure and even hear thunder that we cannot yet hear.
When looking for signs of storm phobia, look for the Three P’s:
There are other signs that could arise such as erratic behavior, hiding and crying. Learn the differences between your dogs relaxed behavior and their anxious behavior as it will help you determine when you need to act.
There are several things you can do to help your dog through this fear. Thunderstorm phobia is real and it’s very common. The best thing you can do is to act as soon as you recognize a fear developing:
- Close the blinds to lessen the sight of lightning
- Turn on the television or a radio to create extra noise. This may lessen the loudness of thunder
- Practice basic commands so when a storm is approaching you can keep them focused on your while you ask them to sit, stay, lay down, etc…
- Let them go into a confined space such as the bathroom or even a cage
- Play games like tug-of-war or fetch so they are distracted. This can also create positive enforcement
- Purchase a Thundershirt. It applies a small amount of constant pressure which is similar to being swaddled
- Natural remedies have worked in some cases. Diffusers or collars containing Bach Flower extract (found in Rescue Remedy), lavender oil or “Dog Appeasing Pheremone” (D.A.P) can be found in your local pet stores.
It is best to not ignore the issue and believe that the dog will get used to thunder. As time goes on the phobia tends to get worse. If all else fails you can always discuss with your veterinarian about the use of medications or be referred to a veterinary behaviorist.
Dealing with thunder phobia can be challenging so it’s best to remain calm and be persistent. If your dog sense you are anxious or tense it could hinder their progress.
Do you have any tips on how you help your dog deal with thunderstorms? We’d love to hear them!