Thunderstorms and dogs
Rain, rain, rain! It must be May in Montana! Thunderstorm season is here and it seems a good time to write a blog post about how you can help your dog. Many dogs are terrified of thunderstorms.
Thunder and lightning can be very very frightening…..! Especially for our dogs. Thunderstorms and dogs do not fix.
I always try and put myself in my dogs shoes, or should that be paws? ?
So what could your dog be thinking/feeling when a Thunderstorm approaches?
This is Fido’s first experience of a thunderstorm – we interviewed him (Honestly we did!):
‘It’s a normal day. I am happy. Suddenly the air feels odd, it makes my fur feel funny. I don’t know what that feeling is but it makes me feel uncomfortable. My humans are running around bringing in all seat covers and random items (that could maybe get blown away).
We didn’t go on our afternoon walk, I am not really sure why. Why did my humans suddenly change our daily routine? The air still feels odd… like the pressure has changed.
I can hear a low rumble in the distance, what is that? Is it a dinosaur coming for me? My ears are very good at hearing noises! My humans don’t even hear this noise yet. It is making me anxious though…. I don’t know what it is.
Suddenly out of nowhere there is a HUGE loud cracking noise and flashes of light in the sky. Wow I didn’t see that coming! What is that? Help me! I don’t understand what is going on!! What is it? Why is it so LOUD and unpredictable.’
Though we obviously did not interview Fido, although that would be awesome if we could, it clearly shows how dogs experience a thunderstorm. It is important to look at why dogs can become scared of thunderstorms, especially if it is their 1st one or they have had a bad experience previously.
Why are dogs scared of thunderstorms?
Thunderstorms are LOUD, UNPREDICTABLE AND CAUSE SUDDEN LIGHT FLASHES.
Thunderstorms create changes in AIR PRESSURE, STATIC ELECTRICITY IN THE AIR & cause LOW RUMBLINGS which dogs can hear even from far distances.
As a dog owner it is really important to support your dog prior, during and after Thunderstorms. It is not pleasant for your dog to be in an anxious state especially when we can put measures in place to help them cope.
Should I comfort my dog during a thunderstorm?
We hear a lot of talk about comforting your dog and that some people say that it will make the fear worse. That is WRONG advice.
You can’t reinforce an emotion, the fear is the fear. Comforting your dog will not reinforce that fear. Your dog will not become more scared of thunderstorms because you provided comfort.
Let’s look at this in terms of a Human example.
Example: You had a scary experience, you were robbed while out running, the thief came out of nowhere, demanded that you hand over your phone and it was terrifying.
After the event, you called your best friend who came to your house. She made you a cup of tea and comforted you. Is that cup of tea and comfort likely to increase your state of fear if such an event is to occur again? No it’s not, the fear will be the fear. It’s scary, it was a situation you were unable to control!
Now imagine if your friend decided to not provide any comfort, kind words, no cup of tea because your friend is of the opinion that it would make you more scared and fearful next time? Yep, maybe consider some new friends!
The same applies to your dog! Providing comfort will not make your dog more scared next time- your dog will just be scared of the thunderstorm. So please provide the comfort to your dog. Also try to be calm yourself during a thunderstorm as your dog will pick up on your feelings!
Thunderstorms & dogs- top tips
Here are some of our top tips for making sure your dog is in the best position to cope with a Thunderstorm:
- Create a safe space
- Introduce a crate if your dog hasn’t used one before (we suggest doing this before the storm)
- Cover the existing crate with a heavy blanket (allow for ventilation!)- this should be a safe known space for your dog so make use of it
- Utilize your basement- a lot of basements have less windows and are not so open to the elements
- Grounded areas- basements, bathtubs and enclosed internal spaces are perfect
- Bathtub- a bathtub is a safe space, put some nice comfy blankets in there (we suggest introducing your dog to the bathtub prior to a thunderstorm so they are familiar with it). It also creates some sound insulation
- Familiar items- make sure your dog has access to familiar items that might provide comfort
- Comfy beds are great too!
- Turn on the TV or play some soothing music to drown the thunderstorm out
- Play time- if your dog wants to play, then distract your dog with playtime (ONLY INSIDE)
- A nice tasty frozen kong also helps
- Get the Snuffle Mat out- let your dog use it’s hunting instincts and nose to provide distraction
- Provide comfort
- ThunderWraps- these works on some dogs and provide comfort during anxious times
- Provide comfort to your dog- stay close to them if that makes them more comfortable
- Herbal remedies are available- please discuss use with a certified Professional before using
Click HERE for your Local ThunderShirt products at Tailwaggers in Whitefish.
Speak to the staff at Dee-O-Gee in Kalispell and see what products they have available to calm an anxious dog Click HERE
So remember to prepare your dog for a Thunderstorm! A great way to prepare is:
- Play the sound of thunder quietly during feeding time/play time- make it background noise
- Gradually increase the noise of the thunderstorm over a few weeks, ALWAYS in a positive setting
- The sound should become background noise that your dog becomes used to
- You can work on positive associations to the sound by playing games or giving yummy treats!
We hope you found this blog useful!