As a pet owner, you may have witnessed your dog transform from its normal, playful self into an entirely different animal when confronted with thunder and lightning. The signs of storm anxiety in dogs can range from mild to severe. For instance, some dogs may show mild discomfort by increased paw licking or pacing. Other dogs may get so worked up that they become inconsolable — or destructive.
Though you may not be able to ever completely rid your dog of their anxiety surrounding storms, there are steps that you can take to help your dog feel calmer during bad weather.
Why Do Some Dogs Hate Thunderstorms?
Dog experts may not know the root cause of why every dog hates storms, but according to the American Kennel Club trainer Trista Miller, most of the anxiety is surrounding the loud noises that generally accompany bad weather. Dogs have increased hearing sensitivity, which Miller believes contributes to that anxiety. “They can often detect thunder way before we can,” she says.
Fear of loud noises is also instinctual in many animals, including humans. Storms also have a way of sweeping in dramatically, making the whole house feel as if it was under siege by the weather. Dogs may hear the loud, unexplained sounds and have a drive to try to find a place where they feel protected, which may explain some of the nervous behaviors that dog owners see their furry friends display during a storm.
What Can I Do To Help My Dog During a Storm?
Even though your dog’s fear may be instinctual, there are still steps that you can take to help alleviate your sweet pet of their anxiety. Here are some tips:
Give Them a Safe Place To Go
If your dog is feeling that it needs to seek safety and shelter, one thing you can provide for them is a safe place to go. Many dogs may be attracted to their crates or to a dark closet. These places may feel familiar to your dog, which can help soothe their anxiety.
Drown Out the Noise From the Storm
Another way that you can help soothe your dog is to provide background noise that is loud enough to disguise the thunder that is making your dog feel uneasy. Playing the radio, turning up the TV, or even using a white noise machine can help soothe your dog. The more predictable the sound is, the more relaxing it can be.
In addition to drowning out the noise from the storm, it can also help your dog avoid hearing other jarring sounds, which may put them even more at edge and make their anxiety worse.
Give Your Dog a Distraction
If your dog becomes extremely anxious or destructive, either to your house or to themselves, one thing you can do to help them feel better is to provide them with a distraction in the form of a treat or a toy.
For instance, if your dog is repeatedly licking their paws, you may try to find some activity that can redirect that same behavior. There are licking mats that you can buy for your pooch that are made to be spread with soft materials such as peanut butter, cream cheese, or mashed bananas. You may also consider toys that require your dog to flex its cognitive ability, such as a treat puzzle.
Consider Snug Clothing
While it may sound silly to dress your dog, there are jackets and wraps that are manufactured for the sole purpose of relieving your dog’s anxiety. These garments apply gentle, constant pressure to your pup, which can be soothing. It’s much like swaddling a baby when they’re uneasy or falling asleep peacefully under a heavy blanket. Though the research on the effectiveness of these items is varied, it may not hurt to try with your furry friend the next time they show signs of anxiety.
What Can I Do To Prevent Storm Anxiety?
If you have seen anxious behavior in your pup during storms before and you want to work with them before the next storm occurs, here are some tips you can use:
Decondition Your Dog To Loud Noises
One thing you can do to work with your dog is to help gently expose your dog to loud noises in a slow and controlled way. You can play thunderstorm sounds quietly while playing with your pup and rewarding them with treats. Over several weeks or months, you can gradually increase the sound of the recording. The goal is to help your dog begin associating the sounds of a thunderstorm with positive things.
Speak With Your Vet
Of course, if you have any concerns about your pet, your vet will always be a safe and reliable place to discuss options. Though not every dog will need anti-anxiety medications, some may benefit from them.
Your vet can help walk you through your options and determine if your dog is a good candidate for these meds. You and your vet can work together to determine a treatment plan for your dog’s anxiety which may include a combination of things like training, desensitization, and medication.
Work With a Trainer
If your dog is having a difficult time dealing with thunderstorms, a certified trainer can help you develop a training plan based on behavior modification. Your trainer can work with you and your furry friend to provide you both with the support you need to weather whatever storms come your way.
Contact Greenlin Pet Resorts for Your Training Needs
If your dog is suffering from storm anxiety, consider contacting a knowledgeable and experienced dog trainer at Greenlin Pet Resorts. With five resorts located in central Pennsylvania, we have many convenient training options for you.
Contact us today to set up a free training consultation. During your consultation, one of our trainers will talk with you to determine your goals for your dog and your family. Our trainers have been trained in a variety of techniques, so we will work to figure out which style your dog is most responsive to. We will also work with you so that you can feel comfortable continuing your dog’s training at home, with the ultimate goal of creating a caring and trusting relationship between you and your furry friend. Let’s get started today!