Do you have a dog that is afraid of thunderstorms? If so, you are not alone. Many dogs become agitated and anxious during storms, with some even developing true phobias. This can be a difficult problem to deal with, but there are things that you can do to help your dog cope. In this blog post, we will discuss the reasons why dogs are afraid of thunderstorms and offer tips on how to help them through these storms.
Reasons your dog may be scared of storms
One reason is that some dogs are unfortunately more predisposed to experience storm phobia – dogs on the larger side (50 pounds or more) are more likely to be troubled by storms. Herding breeds are also more prone to being anxious during storms.
They sense the changes in the atmosphere
Another reason for their fear is that they can sense the barometric pressure changes that occur before a storm. Dr Nicholas Dodman, Chief Scientist for DOGTV and professor at Tufts University has said that dogs can potentially even sense the ionized particles in the air. Paired with the darkening skies and rumbling thunder, these changes can be very confusing and scary for them.
Dogs are also sensitive to static electricity. Static can build up in the dog’s fur (pups with long or double coats are particularly prone to this), which gives a prickly, uneasy feeling that can be a very frightening experience for them. Then if the dog touches a metal object with a wet nose, he’ll likely get an unpleasant shock, which can startle and frighten him.
Bright lights and loud noises
Additionally, the bright flashes of lightning and the loud claps of thunder can be very frightening for dogs. Some dogs may even be afraid of the rain itself.
How you can help ease your dog’s anxiety during a storm
Provide them with a safe space.
This could be a room in your house where they feel comfortable and safe. You may want to close the curtains or blinds to help block out some of the light from the flashes of lightning. A grounded area is particularly helpful in this case, like a basement or a bathtub. The porcelain from the tub blocks the travel of the electricity, keeping your dog more comfortable until the storm passes.
Turn on DOGTV
It can also help to turn on some calming music to help drown out the sound of the thunder. This is a great time to turn on DOGTV for your pup – in this case we recommend the Relaxation episodes. The soundtrack is specially composed based on our research around the particular types of music dogs find relaxing, down to the particular sound frequencies used. (If you’re not a current subscriber, use code APRILSHOWERS when you sign up to get 20% off your annual subscription.)
Use a Thundershirt or anti-anxiety wrap
Another thing that you can do is to purchase a Thundershirt or other anti-anxiety wrap for your dog. Thundershirts are designed to help dogs feel calm and secure, and they have been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety in many dogs. You can also try wrapping your dog in a towel or blanket. This will help to provide them with a sense of security. I’ve also seen a similar effect with a well fitting vest, though it’s important to note that just dressing your dog in clothes is not enough to help with anxiety. The feeling you’re going for is like a gentle hug – tight enough to offer light compression but not so tight that the dog is uncomfortable moving around. Additionally, if an article of clothing isn’t properly fitted, it could in rub your dog’s fur when he moves around, and exacerbate the static electricity build up.
Finally, you can try giving your dog some calming treats or chews. There are lots of great options on the market with anxiety reducing ingredients, including many with CBD. You may also want to consult with your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication for your dog. Your vet can advise if an OTC option is a good choice for your pup, or if you need to explore prescription medications.
If you have a dog that is afraid of thunderstorms, hopefully, these tips will help you to ease their anxiety. Remember, it is important to be patient and understanding with your dog during these times. They may act out of sorts, but they are not misbehaving, they are just scared and need a little TLC from their favorite human to help them weather the storm.
Is your dog frightened by storms? Do you have any tips or tricks to share that have helped to calm your dog? We want to hear! Join the conversation over on our Facebook group, The DOGTV Pack.