Summer in Australia means a wet season that hosts many storms. Although these storms bring a welcome cool air to close out a humid day, for dogs, they can be loud, confusing, and overwhelming. If you have a dog who is afraid of storms, it’s important to find the root of this fear and provide the appropriate support to help them through it and to create a better, more relaxed relationship with them. Let’s delve into why thunderstorms can be so frightening for dogs and explore practical ways to ease their distress.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Thunderstorms?
The most apparent reason is the loud and unexpected noise. Dogs have acute hearing, and the thunderclaps can be jarring and frightening.
Studies show that dogs may be sensitive to the static electricity that builds up during a thunderstorm, which can cause discomfort and confusion.
The change in atmospheric pressure that accompanies storms can be detected by dogs and can unsettle them.
Innate Fear Response
Some breeds may have a predisposition to fear loud noises or may have had a negative experience associated with thunderstorms.
How to Help Your Dog During Thunderstorms
Create a Safe Space
Establish a comfortable and secure area where your dog can retreat. This might be a crate covered with a blanket, a special room, or a quiet spot away from windows.
Use White Noise or Music
Playing calming music or white noise can help mask the sound of thunder. There are even specially designed playlists and tracks for dogs.
Try a Thunder Shirt
Thunder shirts or anxiety wraps apply gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant, which can be soothing for some dogs.
Gradually expose your dog to recorded thunderstorm sounds at a low volume, increasing it over time. Pair the sounds with positive experiences like treats or playtime to help build positive associations.
Stay Calm and Positive
Dogs often look to their owners for cues on how to react. By staying calm and positive during a storm, you can help reassure your dog.
While it’s important to comfort your dog, too much coddling during fearful moments can reinforce fearful behaviours. Aim for a balance between being supportive and encouraging independence.
Consult a Veterinarian
If your dog’s fear of thunderstorms is severe, leading to destructive behaviour or health concerns, it’s important to consult a veterinarian. They may recommend medication or refer you to an animal behaviorist.
Close Curtains and Windows
Reducing the visual and auditory stimuli can help. Close the curtains and windows to muffle the sound and block out flashes of lightning.
Engage in Play or Training
Distracting your dog with play or training exercises can redirect their focus away from the storm.
Some dogs may find comfort in scents. Consider using a dog-appeasing pheromone diffuser, spray, or collar.
Understanding and addressing your dog’s fear of thunderstorms can significantly improve their quality of life – and yours. Each dog is unique, so it may take some time to find the right combination of strategies that work for your pet. With patience, empathy, and the right approach, you can help your pup navigate stormy weather with less anxiety and more ease.