Dog thunderstorm anxiety explained

Your dog will know a thunderstorm is on its way long before you unless you’ve read the weather forecast that is! Build a relationship of trust between you and your dog, when your dog knows for sure you’re their ultimate safety net, then they are going to believe you more readily when faced with their nemesis, whatever that may be, in this instance we are talking thunderstorms. Trust is not built from training your dog to perform sit, stay, and heel. Trust is built on how you respond to all their communication signals throughout their day with you. Dogs talk by what they do. Dogs do as they feel. Be mindful of the behaviour, you, and the environment to help your dog through. Dogs mirror our emotions and actions. Be the stable adult and guide them to feeling safe and secure in your company, in the knowledge that you are there to keep them safe. A dog who trusts you and knows you understand them will be calm. When something out of the blue happens that they show signs of fear, your dog will respond more readily to your support if trust is already established. Dogs that eat a natural diet, free from unnecessary sugars and fillers tend to be calmer and more balanced mentally. This may help your dog take thunderstorms in their stride.

The static effect of thunderstorms

Dog fur collects static, especially larger dogs and those with double coats. Their nose then may come in contact with metal and they get a shock. Here you have an immediate negative consequence of thunderstorms.

Do you have a dog with mild to moderate noise anxiety (storms, fireworks)? There are many ways to help your dog feel more comfortable and at ease during these situations. However, if they have progressed to full-on anxiety attacks and are throwing themselves through walls and doors then it is unfortunately the below tips will likely not help. If that is the case, please contact our team at The Pet Doctor immediately. Fireworks and such are usually more pure noise phobias and many of the techniques recommended here can assist with them as well. Storm anxiety can be more complex as there can be many components to a storm that dog’s ‘cue’ to. Thunder is not only noise but vibration, the noise of heavy rain, the darkening of the sky, their people running around looking worried, flashes of light, changes in barometric pressure and humidity and some can even become sensitized to the buildup of electrical charges. Yes, dogs can learn to cue to all those things and more. The complex nature of the cues with storms can make treating severe thunderstorm anxieties a complex business (but they usually can be managed). how to calm dog during thunderstorm The following is a list of the most commonly helpful recommendations. Very often what works will be a combination of some of these methods rather than a single fix-all product or method.

1. Intervene Early

This tends to be true for ALL behavioral problems. Step in and deal with them sooner rather than later. The time to deal with these issues is long before major destruction and injury is occurring. Storm anxiety is known to be a progressive disease. Every subsequent storm can compound the fear and anxiety, and every subsequent storm season can result in the fear getting worse. You also need to be able to recognize the subtle signs of distress in your dog to be able to intervene early. Some of the more subtle signs may include:

  • Hiding/retreating to their crate
  • Moving close to their favorite person
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Licking their lips
  • Yawning
  • Drooling
  • Whining/barking
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Trying to fit into tight spaces

2. Reassure your Dog

There is a difference between reassuring and coddling. A big dramatic production can work against you and may even make your pet worse. However, there is nothing wrong with reassuring the dog that everything is okay. They will often take cues from you, so by all means give them a pet, let them lay close by if they wish, speak more often and in a calming way. Yelling “it’s ok it’s ok it’s ok” in a high-pitched voice is not helpful. Speak slow and low. Above all, do not act like there is a problem, and instead, go about things in the most normal and calming way possible.

3. Let Them Hide or Build Them a Bunker

If they wish to hide, then let them. If they want to be in their crate, then allow them inside. Try allowing them into a dark closet or smaller bathroom in which you have placed a bed, food, water, and their favorite toy. Being in a small inner room or closet reduces the light flashes and muffles a lot of the vibrations and noise associated with storms. You can also try keeping a heavy blanket around and laying it over their crate during storms. Some dogs settle down right away when allowed to hide in their own storm bunker room. Don’t work against that need for them. If hiding helps, consider leaving their ‘bunker’ available to them all the time so they can get inside when you are away, and a storm starts. Flashing lights can be part of the trigger too. Consider closing the drapes/blinds so the light flashes are not as obvious. If they do not like to hide in their own dark place, then switch gears and try leaving a light on during the stormy night to help make the flashing light outside less noticeable.

4. Compete with the Noise

Try keeping a nice loud movie or show video on hand that the dog does not usually react to. Play it while the storm or fireworks are going on. Turn the radio on and turn it up or use a white noise machine. These tips all work for some dogs and are easy enough to implement when the storm starts. Another thing to try if those tactics do not seem to keep them from getting anxious using soothing music. “Through A Dog’s Ear” is great and many people swear by it since it was specifically designed to induce relaxation. Relaxation music needs to have been introduced to the dog prior to a storm so that you can help ensure that they do have a relaxing response to the music. Relaxation music is less likely to work if the first time they ever hear and likely already having a small panic attack.

5. Counterconditioning

Recondition your pets ‘emotional’ state during storms. Again, this is much more successful EARLY on with minor to moderate phobias. Also, this can be done during known and anticipated noisy times (fireworks, known incoming storms) when you are raising a pup and wish to try to avoid the development of noise phobias and anxieties. If your pet is mildly anxious, keep a bag of their favorite treat on hand. Toys (whether regular or food related) and games work well too. Be prepared to play whatever game it is that strongly attracts and keeps their attention. Then whenever your dog first begins to act anxious, distract them with the treat or game. For pups, just be prepared to distract them ever so often with a treat or game while the storm is raging, and always be upbeat and interactive. Puppies do not need it to be constant – just enough to make sure they have a pleasant experience. When handing out treats make sure that you do not hand them out every time the dog acts fearful (you are rewarding the wrong behavior). Distract them from their distress first and offer the treat when they are calm and responding to you rather than the storm.

6. Body Wraps

First, for these to work you need to have made the dog comfortable wearing the wraps and having the wraps put on long before the noise anxiety issue occurs. Practice applying it and having them wear it before the storm. For some dogs, firm soft pressure around their upper body is very relaxing. This can assist some dogs for a variety of reasons (shy, nervous, fearful, needing confidence, stressed, hyper-excitable, car sickness). There are commercial products made for this (such as Thundershirt and Anxiety wrap). The basics of how they work have to do with the fit being much more firm (yet pliable) than a regular loose doggie sweater or t-shirt. The fit is intended to be very firm like swaddling a baby. There are other methods to try and produce a similar result (and certainly they can be worth a try before spending money on a special shirt only to find out your individual dog was not helped by one). Try a t-shirt or sweatshirt wrap and then apply an Ace Bandage wrap over the top as described below to get the proper swaddling wrap:

  • T-shirt wrap – The aim is to have a firm-fitting t-shirt overall, not a big loose one. Try taking a t-shirt and putting it over the dog’s head with the front of the t-Shirt facing up on their back. Put the front legs through the armholes and tie up any looseness toward the dog’s rump with a knot over their back or with a scrunchie. You can also take a plastic can lid and cut an ‘X’ in it and feed the extra hem through until it is comfortably tight.
  • Sweatshirt wrap – Some dogs do better with a heavier material. Take a size-appropriate sweatshirt and lay it across their back and tie the long arms loosely under their neck. For small dogs, you can make a wrap from a sweatshirt arm, just cut the appropriate leg holes, and make certain there are not binding too close to allow free movement of the legs.
  • Ace Bandage – there are several methods for applying partial to full body wraps with an ace bandage described. Be certain you are comfortable and familiar with using elastic bandage material without pulling it too tight. For smaller dogs, you want the two-inch bandage, and for the larger dogs the 3–4-inch bandage. The Half or quarter wrap method with an Ace bandage can be used in concert with a t-shirt or sweatshirt as described above as well.

7. Help Avoid Electrostatic Buildup

Animals are very sensitive to many aspects of storms that we cannot sense well. Dogs can sense the static charge buildup before a thunderstorm. It is a warning that lightning may strike which is a perfectly rational thing to react to and be aware of for them. Some dogs that are highly sensitive to this buildup often try to escape the static charge by moving toward items or areas that are more electrically grounded such as sinks, bathtubs, shower stalls, behind toilets, or up against metal radiators or pipes. There are some ways to try to combat this if it is part of what sets your dog off. One method is to cover the crate with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil or if they hide under the bed, try slipping a layer of aluminum foil between the box spring and mattress. The second is to try one of the commercially available shirts made for static discharge reduction (Storm Defender Cape). This does not help every dog, but it is the ticket for some of them. You can always try the foil method and see if you notice any improvement at all before you spend cash on the cape.

8. Natural Therapies

For some animals, these can be a very effective tool. All you can do is try the different things and see if one or a combination of them will help. We recommend checking with your veterinarian before trying the below products:

  • Essential Oil Lavender – either applied lightly to the back of the neck, dabbed onto a bandanna worn around the neck, or used in a diffuser. This also has been shown to help decrease anxiety about riding in the car. ‘Young Living’ makes a roll-on formula called Tranquil that is handy for this.
  • ProQuiet – a tryptophan supplement, easily found online in numerous places.
  • Adaptil Collar/Spray – pheromone spray or collar that is very relaxing to some dogs. Used to be called the DAP collar. Very effective for some dogs.
  • Rescue Remedy – made by Bach Flower Essences, comes in a liquid that can be lightly applied to the dog’s body, a bandanna, or 3-4 drops placed in their food or water.
  • Harmonease Tablets – Tablets with a blend of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense extracts blend of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense extracts.

9. Desensitize Them

This can work wonders for some dogs (sometimes even for the severely affected ones). However, do recall that it is not only noise that triggers the fear response in some animals (lights, vibration, pressure changes, etc), and for that reason some animals do not respond to attempts to desensitize them with recorded noise alone. Basically, you play recordings of thunderstorm noises (lots of free recordings on YouTube) at a low volume which does not induce fear reactions while engaging the dog with positive stimuli (treats, toys, games, attention, etc.). You increase the volume slowly over a period of several weeks while continuing to engage them with positive distractions.

10. Medication

There are medications that can be used to assist in all levels of storm/noise anxiety. Using an antianxiety medication early in the evolution of this fear can settle the symptoms down entirely in some dogs. Moderate sufferers (or in situations where the dog must be alone during storm season) and dogs that are routinely highly anxious even without storms may benefit greatly from the daily use of a medication. We can always help tailor specific management protocols to fit your pets’ individual needs and manifestations for any behavioral problem. The most commonly effective solution tends to be a proper medication choice combined with some of the above suggestions. We can even provide a referral to a behavioral specialist if needed. Just remember, if the problem is worsening, seek our help sooner rather than later. Give us a call at 253-588-1851 to schedule an appointment with one of our The Pet Doctor vets!

Tan Dog Staring up at Storm Clouds on a Country Road | Taste of the Wild Can your dog predict thunderstorms more accurately than the Weather Channel? Do they pace, pant or whine hours before the first dark cloud rolls in? Have they ever chewed or scratched your doors or windows in an effort to get inside the house (or vice versa) during a storm? Do they tremble and hide at the first drop of rain? If so, they may be showing the signs of storm anxiety.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

For some dogs, the sound of thunder — as well as fireworks or gunshots — may be what’s upsetting. For others, it’s the whole package: the thunder, the lightning, the change in barometric pressure, the static electricity, even the scent of rain. And still other dogs have generalized, daily anxiety that’s made worse by storms. It’s important to work with your veterinarian to determine whether your dog is suffering from noise anxiety, storm anxiety, separation anxiety or a combination of stresses, so you can find the right treatment to help your pet. If your dog’s anxiety is so extreme that they are hurting themselves or destroying property, your veterinarian may recommend medications to help. RELATED POST: Destructive Behavior in Pets: It’s Not Spite

APPROACH THE PROBLEM FROM MANY ANGLES

Because there can be many facets to storm anxiety, therapy usually involves a combination of environmental changes and behavior therapy to medications and other treatments. Here are 10 ways to help calm your fearful dog. Bring your dog indoors during a storm. It may sound obvious, but dogs with storm anxieties really do need a “shelter in the storm.” Create a safe place. Find an interior closet or room without windows and fill it with your dog’s favorite bed, toys and treats. Help your dog become accustomed to the area weeks before the first storm hits, so it’s a familiar and comforting experience. Consider crating your dog. If they already seek out their crate as a place of comfort, make it available during the storm — but always leave the door open. (Dogs who are locked inside a crate or room can break teeth and claws trying to escape.) Place a blanket or a sound-deadening cover over the crate to add another buffer to help your dog. Pull the shades. The flash of lightning can be unsettling for some dogs, so closing the shades and drapes can help shut out distractions and perhaps muffle the noise. Don shirts, wraps or capes. The ThunderShirt is designed to create a calming effect by applying gentle pressure to the dog’s torso. The Storm Defender Cape is marketed to reduce static electricity, but even wiping your dog with an anti-static laundry sheet may help. Make sure the laundry sheet is unscented, however, and be sure to dispose of the sheet properly, so your dog doesn’t eat it. Mutt Muffs ear covers help reduce sound and Doggles with dark lenses may help block out lightning strikes. Play soothing music. Consider playing “Through a Dog’s Ear” (music designed to calm dogs), turning on the radio or TV, or just using a white noise machine to help cancel out the sound of the storm. Use pheromones. For some dogs, products such as the Adaptil diffuser, spray or collar can help them feel a little calmer. Try desensitization and counterconditioning. To help desensitize your dog to storm sounds, on days without storms, play a recording of thunder at a volume so low that it’s not upsetting to them. Then offer your dog treats or a stuffed Kong to counter-condition, or help them associate a positive with the perceived negative of the recorded sounds. Over several days to weeks, in 10-minute sessions, gradually increase the volume of the recording, always pairing it with the treats or a toy. This may help some dogs learn to not be afraid of the noise. However, the fear may be rooted in other aspects of the storm (changes in barometric pressure, static electricity, etc.) so your dog may need additional therapies. Work with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. For some dogs with intense fears, it may take patience, dedication and the guidance of a behavior specialist to help your dog learn how to weather the storm. RELATED POST: Pop, Pop, KaBOOM! Managing Your Pet’s Fireworks Fear The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian. A dog who trusts you and knows you understand them will be calm. When something out of the blue happens that they show signs of fear, your dog will respond more readily to your support if trust is already established. Dogs that eat a natural diet, free from unnecessary sugars and fillers tend to be calmer and more balanced mentally. This may help your dog take thunderstorms in their stride.

Why do dogs get anxious around thunderstorms

How to calm a dog down during a thunderstorm safe place Dogs can be far more sensitive to thunderstorms than any other noises and external stimuli for these reasons;

  • The air pressure changes
  • The sky turns dark
  • There are low rumbles in the distance.
  • Static electricity

The static effect of thunderstorms

Dog fur collects static, especially larger dogs and those with double coats. Their nose then may come in contact with metal and they get a shock. Here you have an immediate negative consequence of thunderstorms.

Dog thunderstorm anxiety explained

Your dog will know a thunderstorm is on its way long before you unless you’ve read the weather forecast that is! Build a relationship of trust between you and your dog, when your dog knows for sure you’re their ultimate safety net, then they are going to believe you more readily when faced with their nemesis, whatever that may be, in this instance we are talking thunderstorms. Trust is not built from training your dog to perform sit, stay, and heel. Trust is built on how you respond to all their communication signals throughout their day with you. Dogs talk by what they do. Dogs do as they feel. Be mindful of the behaviour, you, and the environment to help your dog through. Dogs mirror our emotions and actions. Be the stable adult and guide them to feeling safe and secure in your company, in the knowledge that you are there to keep them safe. A dog who trusts you and knows you understand them will be calm. When something out of the blue happens that they show signs of fear, your dog will respond more readily to your support if trust is already established. Dogs that eat a natural diet, free from unnecessary sugars and fillers tend to be calmer and more balanced mentally. This may help your dog take thunderstorms in their stride.

The static effect of thunderstorms

Dog fur collects static, especially larger dogs and those with double coats. Their nose then may come in contact with metal and they get a shock. Here you have an immediate negative consequence of thunderstorms.

Do you have a dog with mild to moderate noise anxiety (storms, fireworks)? There are many ways to help your dog feel more comfortable and at ease during these situations. However, if they have progressed to full-on anxiety attacks and are throwing themselves through walls and doors then it is unfortunately the below tips will likely not help. If that is the case, please contact our team at The Pet Doctor immediately. Fireworks and such are usually more pure noise phobias and many of the techniques recommended here can assist with them as well. Storm anxiety can be more complex as there can be many components to a storm that dog’s ‘cue’ to. Thunder is not only noise but vibration, the noise of heavy rain, the darkening of the sky, their people running around looking worried, flashes of light, changes in barometric pressure and humidity and some can even become sensitized to the buildup of electrical charges. Yes, dogs can learn to cue to all those things and more. The complex nature of the cues with storms can make treating severe thunderstorm anxieties a complex business (but they usually can be managed).how to calm dog during thunderstorm The following is a list of the most commonly helpful recommendations. Very often what works will be a combination of some of these methods rather than a single fix-all product or method.

1. Intervene Early

This tends to be true for ALL behavioral problems. Step in and deal with them sooner rather than later. The time to deal with these issues is long before major destruction and injury is occurring. Storm anxiety is known to be a progressive disease. Every subsequent storm can compound the fear and anxiety, and every subsequent storm season can result in the fear getting worse. You also need to be able to recognize the subtle signs of distress in your dog to be able to intervene early. Some of the more subtle signs may include:

  • Hiding/retreating to their crate
  • Moving close to their favorite person
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Licking their lips
  • Yawning
  • Drooling
  • Whining/barking
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Trying to fit into tight spaces

2. Reassure your Dog

There is a difference between reassuring and coddling. A big dramatic production can work against you and may even make your pet worse. However, there is nothing wrong with reassuring the dog that everything is okay. They will often take cues from you, so by all means give them a pet, let them lay close by if they wish, speak more often and in a calming way. Yelling “it’s ok it’s ok it’s ok” in a high-pitched voice is not helpful. Speak slow and low. Above all, do not act like there is a problem, and instead, go about things in the most normal and calming way possible.

3. Let Them Hide or Build Them a Bunker

If they wish to hide, then let them. If they want to be in their crate, then allow them inside. Try allowing them into a dark closet or smaller bathroom in which you have placed a bed, food, water, and their favorite toy. Being in a small inner room or closet reduces the light flashes and muffles a lot of the vibrations and noise associated with storms. You can also try keeping a heavy blanket around and laying it over their crate during storms. Some dogs settle down right away when allowed to hide in their own storm bunker room. Don’t work against that need for them. If hiding helps, consider leaving their ‘bunker’ available to them all the time so they can get inside when you are away, and a storm starts. Flashing lights can be part of the trigger too. Consider closing the drapes/blinds so the light flashes are not as obvious. If they do not like to hide in their own dark place, then switch gears and try leaving a light on during the stormy night to help make the flashing light outside less noticeable.

4. Compete with the Noise

Try keeping a nice loud movie or show video on hand that the dog does not usually react to. Play it while the storm or fireworks are going on. Turn the radio on and turn it up or use a white noise machine. These tips all work for some dogs and are easy enough to implement when the storm starts. Another thing to try if those tactics do not seem to keep them from getting anxious using soothing music. “Through A Dog’s Ear” is great and many people swear by it since it was specifically designed to induce relaxation. Relaxation music needs to have been introduced to the dog prior to a storm so that you can help ensure that they do have a relaxing response to the music. Relaxation music is less likely to work if the first time they ever hear and likely already having a small panic attack.

5. Counterconditioning

Recondition your pets ‘emotional’ state during storms. Again, this is much more successful EARLY on with minor to moderate phobias. Also, this can be done during known and anticipated noisy times (fireworks, known incoming storms) when you are raising a pup and wish to try to avoid the development of noise phobias and anxieties. If your pet is mildly anxious, keep a bag of their favorite treat on hand. Toys (whether regular or food related) and games work well too. Be prepared to play whatever game it is that strongly attracts and keeps their attention. Then whenever your dog first begins to act anxious, distract them with the treat or game. For pups, just be prepared to distract them ever so often with a treat or game while the storm is raging, and always be upbeat and interactive. Puppies do not need it to be constant – just enough to make sure they have a pleasant experience. When handing out treats make sure that you do not hand them out every time the dog acts fearful (you are rewarding the wrong behavior). Distract them from their distress first and offer the treat when they are calm and responding to you rather than the storm.

6. Body Wraps

First, for these to work you need to have made the dog comfortable wearing the wraps and having the wraps put on long before the noise anxiety issue occurs. Practice applying it and having them wear it before the storm. For some dogs, firm soft pressure around their upper body is very relaxing. This can assist some dogs for a variety of reasons (shy, nervous, fearful, needing confidence, stressed, hyper-excitable, car sickness). There are commercial products made for this (such as Thundershirt and Anxiety wrap). The basics of how they work have to do with the fit being much more firm (yet pliable) than a regular loose doggie sweater or t-shirt. The fit is intended to be very firm like swaddling a baby. There are other methods to try and produce a similar result (and certainly they can be worth a try before spending money on a special shirt only to find out your individual dog was not helped by one). Try a t-shirt or sweatshirt wrap and then apply an Ace Bandage wrap over the top as described below to get the proper swaddling wrap:

  • T-shirt wrap – The aim is to have a firm-fitting t-shirt overall, not a big loose one. Try taking a t-shirt and putting it over the dog’s head with the front of the t-Shirt facing up on their back. Put the front legs through the armholes and tie up any looseness toward the dog’s rump with a knot over their back or with a scrunchie. You can also take a plastic can lid and cut an ‘X’ in it and feed the extra hem through until it is comfortably tight.
  • Sweatshirt wrap – Some dogs do better with a heavier material. Take a size-appropriate sweatshirt and lay it across their back and tie the long arms loosely under their neck. For small dogs, you can make a wrap from a sweatshirt arm, just cut the appropriate leg holes, and make certain there are not binding too close to allow free movement of the legs.
  • Ace Bandage – there are several methods for applying partial to full body wraps with an ace bandage described. Be certain you are comfortable and familiar with using elastic bandage material without pulling it too tight. For smaller dogs, you want the two-inch bandage, and for the larger dogs the 3–4-inch bandage. The Half or quarter wrap method with an Ace bandage can be used in concert with a t-shirt or sweatshirt as described above as well.

7. Help Avoid Electrostatic Buildup

Animals are very sensitive to many aspects of storms that we cannot sense well. Dogs can sense the static charge buildup before a thunderstorm. It is a warning that lightning may strike which is a perfectly rational thing to react to and be aware of for them. Some dogs that are highly sensitive to this buildup often try to escape the static charge by moving toward items or areas that are more electrically grounded such as sinks, bathtubs, shower stalls, behind toilets, or up against metal radiators or pipes. There are some ways to try to combat this if it is part of what sets your dog off. One method is to cover the crate with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil or if they hide under the bed, try slipping a layer of aluminum foil between the box spring and mattress. The second is to try one of the commercially available shirts made for static discharge reduction (Storm Defender Cape). This does not help every dog, but it is the ticket for some of them. You can always try the foil method and see if you notice any improvement at all before you spend cash on the cape.

8. Natural Therapies

For some animals, these can be a very effective tool. All you can do is try the different things and see if one or a combination of them will help. We recommend checking with your veterinarian before trying the below products:

  • Essential Oil Lavender – either applied lightly to the back of the neck, dabbed onto a bandanna worn around the neck, or used in a diffuser. This also has been shown to help decrease anxiety about riding in the car. ‘Young Living’ makes a roll-on formula called Tranquil that is handy for this.
  • ProQuiet – a tryptophan supplement, easily found online in numerous places.
  • Adaptil Collar/Spray – pheromone spray or collar that is very relaxing to some dogs. Used to be called the DAP collar. Very effective for some dogs.
  • Rescue Remedy – made by Bach Flower Essences, comes in a liquid that can be lightly applied to the dog’s body, a bandanna, or 3-4 drops placed in their food or water.
  • Harmonease Tablets – Tablets with a blend of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense extracts blend of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense extracts.

9. Desensitize Them

This can work wonders for some dogs (sometimes even for the severely affected ones). However, do recall that it is not only noise that triggers the fear response in some animals (lights, vibration, pressure changes, etc), and for that reason some animals do not respond to attempts to desensitize them with recorded noise alone. Basically, you play recordings of thunderstorm noises (lots of free recordings on YouTube) at a low volume which does not induce fear reactions while engaging the dog with positive stimuli (treats, toys, games, attention, etc.). You increase the volume slowly over a period of several weeks while continuing to engage them with positive distractions.

10. Medication

There are medications that can be used to assist in all levels of storm/noise anxiety. Using an antianxiety medication early in the evolution of this fear can settle the symptoms down entirely in some dogs. Moderate sufferers (or in situations where the dog must be alone during storm season) and dogs that are routinely highly anxious even without storms may benefit greatly from the daily use of a medication. We can always help tailor specific management protocols to fit your pets’ individual needs and manifestations for any behavioral problem. The most commonly effective solution tends to be a proper medication choice combined with some of the above suggestions. We can even provide a referral to a behavioral specialist if needed. Just remember, if the problem is worsening, seek our help sooner rather than later. Give us a call at 253-588-1851 to schedule an appointment with one of our The Pet Doctor vets!

Tan Dog Staring up at Storm Clouds on a Country Road | Taste of the WildCan your dog predict thunderstorms more accurately than the Weather Channel? Do they pace, pant or whine hours before the first dark cloud rolls in? Have they ever chewed or scratched your doors or windows in an effort to get inside the house (or vice versa) during a storm? Do they tremble and hide at the first drop of rain? If so, they may be showing the signs of storm anxiety.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

For some dogs, the sound of thunder — as well as fireworks or gunshots — may be what’s upsetting. For others, it’s the whole package: the thunder, the lightning, the change in barometric pressure, the static electricity, even the scent of rain. And still other dogs have generalized, daily anxiety that’s made worse by storms. It’s important to work with your veterinarian to determine whether your dog is suffering from noise anxiety, storm anxiety, separation anxiety or a combination of stresses, so you can find the right treatment to help your pet. If your dog’s anxiety is so extreme that they are hurting themselves or destroying property, your veterinarian may recommend medications to help. RELATED POST: Destructive Behavior in Pets: It’s Not Spite

APPROACH THE PROBLEM FROM MANY ANGLES

Because there can be many facets to storm anxiety, therapy usually involves a combination of environmental changes and behavior therapy to medications and other treatments. Here are 10 ways to help calm your fearful dog. Bring your dog indoors during a storm. It may sound obvious, but dogs with storm anxieties really do need a “shelter in the storm.” Create a safe place. Find an interior closet or room without windows and fill it with your dog’s favorite bed, toys and treats. Help your dog become accustomed to the area weeks before the first storm hits, so it’s a familiar and comforting experience. Consider crating your dog. If they already seek out their crate as a place of comfort, make it available during the storm — but always leave the door open. (Dogs who are locked inside a crate or room can break teeth and claws trying to escape.) Place a blanket or a sound-deadening cover over the crate to add another buffer to help your dog. Pull the shades. The flash of lightning can be unsettling for some dogs, so closing the shades and drapes can help shut out distractions and perhaps muffle the noise. Don shirts, wraps or capes. The ThunderShirt is designed to create a calming effect by applying gentle pressure to the dog’s torso. The Storm Defender Cape is marketed to reduce static electricity, but even wiping your dog with an anti-static laundry sheet may help. Make sure the laundry sheet is unscented, however, and be sure to dispose of the sheet properly, so your dog doesn’t eat it. Mutt Muffs ear covers help reduce sound and Doggles with dark lenses may help block out lightning strikes. Play soothing music. Consider playing “Through a Dog’s Ear” (music designed to calm dogs), turning on the radio or TV, or just using a white noise machine to help cancel out the sound of the storm. Use pheromones. For some dogs, products such as the Adaptil diffuser, spray or collar can help them feel a little calmer. Try desensitization and counterconditioning. To help desensitize your dog to storm sounds, on days without storms, play a recording of thunder at a volume so low that it’s not upsetting to them. Then offer your dog treats or a stuffed Kong to counter-condition, or help them associate a positive with the perceived negative of the recorded sounds. Over several days to weeks, in 10-minute sessions, gradually increase the volume of the recording, always pairing it with the treats or a toy. This may help some dogs learn to not be afraid of the noise. However, the fear may be rooted in other aspects of the storm (changes in barometric pressure, static electricity, etc.) so your dog may need additional therapies. Work with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. For some dogs with intense fears, it may take patience, dedication and the guidance of a behavior specialist to help your dog learn how to weather the storm. RELATED POST: Pop, Pop, KaBOOM! Managing Your Pet’s Fireworks Fear The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian. If you have a dog with storm phobia, a thunderstorm in the forecast is your worst nightmare. Here’s 8 tips to calm your dog during a storm from FIGO! If you have a dog with storm phobia, a thunderstorm in the forecast is your worst nightmare. Your dog pants, paces, whines, and might even become destructive during the storm. You worry about the psychological damage and physical harm they can cause themselves during this highly-stressful event. So, how do you handle dog fear and anxiety related to storms? Here are eight tips to calm your dog during a storm:

Be Home With Your Dog

For a dog who already fears thunderstorms, being alone will only worsen the anxiety. If bad weather is in the forecast, try to be home or have someone stay with your dog during the storm.

Create Calmness

Give your dog the comfort and attention she needs to calm her anxiety. An anxious dog is unable to learn due to being overly stimulated and emotional, which means comforting is not rewarding the fear. Try a calming massage to help your dog relax during the storm.

Provide Distractions

If a dog is punished or ignored during a frightening event, it’s likely to worsen the anxiety. Instead, offer a positive stimulus, such as gentle petting, to distract and calm your dog. If your dog will still engage, try a game of indoor fetch, tug, or offer a high-value chew.

Offer a Safe Place

Place your dog’s crate and/or bed in the most sound-proof room of your home. A crate is a natural, psychological defense for dogs and can have an incredible influence on their comfort level. It’s also helpful to close the blinds to shelter your dog from the visual stimulation of a storm.

Compete With Noise

When a completely sound-proof room doesn’t exist, compete with the noise by utilizing a radio or white noise machine. Dog-calming music can also be helpful for the highly nervous dog to muffle the sound of the storm.

Calming Remedies

For mild to moderate cases of storm anxiety, natural therapies can be highly effective. A thunder jacket replicates swaddling and may sooth your dog into a calmer state. Bach flower extracts (as found in Bach’s Rescue Remedy), diffusing lavender oil, and dog pheromones can promote relaxation.

Practice Desensitization

Try to desensitize your dog to the sound of storms by utilizing a thunderstorm sound CD. Start by playing the CD at a very low volume while offering your dog plenty of high-value treats and positive interaction. By slowly increasing the volume over several weeks, desensitization will lessen or completely eliminate anxiety during storms.

Visit Your Veterinarian

For the highly-anxious dog who doesn’t respond to the above methods, a visit to the veterinarian to discuss medication may be the solution. However, medication should be a last resort when desensitization efforts fail. While storms can cause dogs to wreak havoc on your home and themselves, there are several pet relaxation techniques you can use to lessen their anxiety and increase their comfort level. If you have a dog who suffered with storm phobia, what did you do to make her more comfortable? Kelsie McKenzie is the owner and fur-covered girl behind the scenes of It’s Dog or Nothing, a resource for ‘all things Pyrenees.’ She currently lives near Seattle with her Air Force husband and two Great Pyrenees, Mauja and Atka. Kelsie is also a content creator, social media manager, and an avid animal lover.

Dog thunderstorm anxiety — 9 simple tips

If you know your dog has an issue with storms, noises or a generally fearful character then preparation many months before is going to help your dog far better than firefighting on the night.

  1. Create a calm atmosphere with calming music
  2. Be there for them, hold them, show them there’s nothing to worry about
  3. Act normally, use a calm voice to comfort your dog
  4. Use a body-wrap snug-fitting and ideally anti-static
  5. Desensitise your dog to thunderstorm sounds throughout the year
  6. Use a natural herbal calming spray for dogs
  7. Rub down with an anti-static sheet (read below to find out why)
  8. Give your dog a tasty, long-lasting treat to distract them
  9. Make a cosy hideaway of your dog’s choice

* Many dogs will find that laying away from fabric helps far better. Nicholas Dodman of Tufts University in the USA notes that may dogs will seek the comfort of a bathroom, shower, or bath to rest away from the effects of static((https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11890499_Thunderstorm_phobia_in_dogs_An_internet_survey_of_69_cases)). Did you know that bananas contain magnesium which can help to keep your dog calm, learn more in our guide can dogs eat bananas? dogs and fireworks, make a safe space Calm a dog down during a thunderstorm — Dogs love a cosy den to feel safe and secure

5 signs of dog thunderstorm anxiety

The signs your anxious dog will show you that a storm is on the way will include one or more of the following:

  • Panting or hiding
  • Pacing (Get our dog recall training guide)
  • Wide-eyed
  • Ears back
  • Yew

A dog who trusts you and knows you understand them will be calm. When something out of the blue happens that they show signs of fear, your dog will respond more readily to your support if trust is already established. Dogs that eat a natural diet, free from unnecessary sugars and fillers tend to be calmer and more balanced mentally. This may help your dog take thunderstorms in their stride.

Why do dogs get anxious around thunderstorms

How to calm a dog down during a thunderstorm safe placeDogs can be far more sensitive to thunderstorms than any other noises and external stimuli for these reasons;

  • The air pressure changes
  • The sky turns dark
  • There are low rumbles in the distance.
  • Static electricity

The static effect of thunderstorms

Dog fur collects static, especially larger dogs and those with double coats. Their nose then may come in contact with metal and they get a shock. Here you have an immediate negative consequence of thunderstorms.

Dog thunderstorm anxiety explained

Your dog will know a thunderstorm is on its way long before you unless you’ve read the weather forecast that is! Build a relationship of trust between you and your dog, when your dog knows for sure you’re their ultimate safety net, then they are going to believe you more readily when faced with their nemesis, whatever that may be, in this instance we are talking thunderstorms. Trust is not built from training your dog to perform sit, stay, and heel. Trust is built on how you respond to all their communication signals throughout their day with you. Dogs talk by what they do. Dogs do as they feel. Be mindful of the behaviour, you, and the environment to help your dog through. Dogs mirror our emotions and actions. Be the stable adult and guide them to feeling safe and secure in your company, in the knowledge that you are there to keep them safe. A dog who trusts you and knows you understand them will be calm. When something out of the blue happens that they show signs of fear, your dog will respond more readily to your support if trust is already established. Dogs that eat a natural diet, free from unnecessary sugars and fillers tend to be calmer and more balanced mentally. This may help your dog take thunderstorms in their stride.

The static effect of thunderstorms

Dog fur collects static, especially larger dogs and those with double coats. Their nose then may come in contact with metal and they get a shock. Here you have an immediate negative consequence of thunderstorms.

Do you have a dog with mild to moderate noise anxiety (storms, fireworks)? There are many ways to help your dog feel more comfortable and at ease during these situations. However, if they have progressed to full-on anxiety attacks and are throwing themselves through walls and doors then it is unfortunately the below tips will likely not help. If that is the case, please contact our team at The Pet Doctor immediately. Fireworks and such are usually more pure noise phobias and many of the techniques recommended here can assist with them as well. Storm anxiety can be more complex as there can be many components to a storm that dog’s ‘cue’ to. Thunder is not only noise but vibration, the noise of heavy rain, the darkening of the sky, their people running around looking worried, flashes of light, changes in barometric pressure and humidity and some can even become sensitized to the buildup of electrical charges. Yes, dogs can learn to cue to all those things and more. The complex nature of the cues with storms can make treating severe thunderstorm anxieties a complex business (but they usually can be managed).how to calm dog during thunderstorm The following is a list of the most commonly helpful recommendations. Very often what works will be a combination of some of these methods rather than a single fix-all product or method.

1. Intervene Early

This tends to be true for ALL behavioral problems. Step in and deal with them sooner rather than later. The time to deal with these issues is long before major destruction and injury is occurring. Storm anxiety is known to be a progressive disease. Every subsequent storm can compound the fear and anxiety, and every subsequent storm season can result in the fear getting worse. You also need to be able to recognize the subtle signs of distress in your dog to be able to intervene early. Some of the more subtle signs may include:

  • Hiding/retreating to their crate
  • Moving close to their favorite person
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Licking their lips
  • Yawning
  • Drooling
  • Whining/barking
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Trying to fit into tight spaces

2. Reassure your Dog

There is a difference between reassuring and coddling. A big dramatic production can work against you and may even make your pet worse. However, there is nothing wrong with reassuring the dog that everything is okay. They will often take cues from you, so by all means give them a pet, let them lay close by if they wish, speak more often and in a calming way. Yelling “it’s ok it’s ok it’s ok” in a high-pitched voice is not helpful. Speak slow and low. Above all, do not act like there is a problem, and instead, go about things in the most normal and calming way possible.

3. Let Them Hide or Build Them a Bunker

If they wish to hide, then let them. If they want to be in their crate, then allow them inside. Try allowing them into a dark closet or smaller bathroom in which you have placed a bed, food, water, and their favorite toy. Being in a small inner room or closet reduces the light flashes and muffles a lot of the vibrations and noise associated with storms. You can also try keeping a heavy blanket around and laying it over their crate during storms. Some dogs settle down right away when allowed to hide in their own storm bunker room. Don’t work against that need for them. If hiding helps, consider leaving their ‘bunker’ available to them all the time so they can get inside when you are away, and a storm starts. Flashing lights can be part of the trigger too. Consider closing the drapes/blinds so the light flashes are not as obvious. If they do not like to hide in their own dark place, then switch gears and try leaving a light on during the stormy night to help make the flashing light outside less noticeable.

4. Compete with the Noise

Try keeping a nice loud movie or show video on hand that the dog does not usually react to. Play it while the storm or fireworks are going on. Turn the radio on and turn it up or use a white noise machine. These tips all work for some dogs and are easy enough to implement when the storm starts. Another thing to try if those tactics do not seem to keep them from getting anxious using soothing music. “Through A Dog’s Ear” is great and many people swear by it since it was specifically designed to induce relaxation. Relaxation music needs to have been introduced to the dog prior to a storm so that you can help ensure that they do have a relaxing response to the music. Relaxation music is less likely to work if the first time they ever hear and likely already having a small panic attack.

5. Counterconditioning

Recondition your pets ‘emotional’ state during storms. Again, this is much more successful EARLY on with minor to moderate phobias. Also, this can be done during known and anticipated noisy times (fireworks, known incoming storms) when you are raising a pup and wish to try to avoid the development of noise phobias and anxieties. If your pet is mildly anxious, keep a bag of their favorite treat on hand. Toys (whether regular or food related) and games work well too. Be prepared to play whatever game it is that strongly attracts and keeps their attention. Then whenever your dog first begins to act anxious, distract them with the treat or game. For pups, just be prepared to distract them ever so often with a treat or game while the storm is raging, and always be upbeat and interactive. Puppies do not need it to be constant – just enough to make sure they have a pleasant experience. When handing out treats make sure that you do not hand them out every time the dog acts fearful (you are rewarding the wrong behavior). Distract them from their distress first and offer the treat when they are calm and responding to you rather than the storm.

6. Body Wraps

First, for these to work you need to have made the dog comfortable wearing the wraps and having the wraps put on long before the noise anxiety issue occurs. Practice applying it and having them wear it before the storm. For some dogs, firm soft pressure around their upper body is very relaxing. This can assist some dogs for a variety of reasons (shy, nervous, fearful, needing confidence, stressed, hyper-excitable, car sickness). There are commercial products made for this (such as Thundershirt and Anxiety wrap). The basics of how they work have to do with the fit being much more firm (yet pliable) than a regular loose doggie sweater or t-shirt. The fit is intended to be very firm like swaddling a baby. There are other methods to try and produce a similar result (and certainly they can be worth a try before spending money on a special shirt only to find out your individual dog was not helped by one). Try a t-shirt or sweatshirt wrap and then apply an Ace Bandage wrap over the top as described below to get the proper swaddling wrap:

  • T-shirt wrap – The aim is to have a firm-fitting t-shirt overall, not a big loose one. Try taking a t-shirt and putting it over the dog’s head with the front of the t-Shirt facing up on their back. Put the front legs through the armholes and tie up any looseness toward the dog’s rump with a knot over their back or with a scrunchie. You can also take a plastic can lid and cut an ‘X’ in it and feed the extra hem through until it is comfortably tight.
  • Sweatshirt wrap – Some dogs do better with a heavier material. Take a size-appropriate sweatshirt and lay it across their back and tie the long arms loosely under their neck. For small dogs, you can make a wrap from a sweatshirt arm, just cut the appropriate leg holes, and make certain there are not binding too close to allow free movement of the legs.
  • Ace Bandage – there are several methods for applying partial to full body wraps with an ace bandage described. Be certain you are comfortable and familiar with using elastic bandage material without pulling it too tight. For smaller dogs, you want the two-inch bandage, and for the larger dogs the 3–4-inch bandage. The Half or quarter wrap method with an Ace bandage can be used in concert with a t-shirt or sweatshirt as described above as well.

7. Help Avoid Electrostatic Buildup

Animals are very sensitive to many aspects of storms that we cannot sense well. Dogs can sense the static charge buildup before a thunderstorm. It is a warning that lightning may strike which is a perfectly rational thing to react to and be aware of for them. Some dogs that are highly sensitive to this buildup often try to escape the static charge by moving toward items or areas that are more electrically grounded such as sinks, bathtubs, shower stalls, behind toilets, or up against metal radiators or pipes. There are some ways to try to combat this if it is part of what sets your dog off. One method is to cover the crate with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil or if they hide under the bed, try slipping a layer of aluminum foil between the box spring and mattress. The second is to try one of the commercially available shirts made for static discharge reduction (Storm Defender Cape). This does not help every dog, but it is the ticket for some of them. You can always try the foil method and see if you notice any improvement at all before you spend cash on the cape.

8. Natural Therapies

For some animals, these can be a very effective tool. All you can do is try the different things and see if one or a combination of them will help. We recommend checking with your veterinarian before trying the below products:

  • Essential Oil Lavender – either applied lightly to the back of the neck, dabbed onto a bandanna worn around the neck, or used in a diffuser. This also has been shown to help decrease anxiety about riding in the car. ‘Young Living’ makes a roll-on formula called Tranquil that is handy for this.
  • ProQuiet – a tryptophan supplement, easily found online in numerous places.
  • Adaptil Collar/Spray – pheromone spray or collar that is very relaxing to some dogs. Used to be called the DAP collar. Very effective for some dogs.
  • Rescue Remedy – made by Bach Flower Essences, comes in a liquid that can be lightly applied to the dog’s body, a bandanna, or 3-4 drops placed in their food or water.
  • Harmonease Tablets – Tablets with a blend of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense extracts blend of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense extracts.

9. Desensitize Them

This can work wonders for some dogs (sometimes even for the severely affected ones). However, do recall that it is not only noise that triggers the fear response in some animals (lights, vibration, pressure changes, etc), and for that reason some animals do not respond to attempts to desensitize them with recorded noise alone. Basically, you play recordings of thunderstorm noises (lots of free recordings on YouTube) at a low volume which does not induce fear reactions while engaging the dog with positive stimuli (treats, toys, games, attention, etc.). You increase the volume slowly over a period of several weeks while continuing to engage them with positive distractions.

10. Medication

There are medications that can be used to assist in all levels of storm/noise anxiety. Using an antianxiety medication early in the evolution of this fear can settle the symptoms down entirely in some dogs. Moderate sufferers (or in situations where the dog must be alone during storm season) and dogs that are routinely highly anxious even without storms may benefit greatly from the daily use of a medication. We can always help tailor specific management protocols to fit your pets’ individual needs and manifestations for any behavioral problem. The most commonly effective solution tends to be a proper medication choice combined with some of the above suggestions. We can even provide a referral to a behavioral specialist if needed. Just remember, if the problem is worsening, seek our help sooner rather than later. Give us a call at 253-588-1851 to schedule an appointment with one of our The Pet Doctor vets!

Tan Dog Staring up at Storm Clouds on a Country Road | Taste of the WildCan your dog predict thunderstorms more accurately than the Weather Channel? Do they pace, pant or whine hours before the first dark cloud rolls in? Have they ever chewed or scratched your doors or windows in an effort to get inside the house (or vice versa) during a storm? Do they tremble and hide at the first drop of rain? If so, they may be showing the signs of storm anxiety.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

For some dogs, the sound of thunder — as well as fireworks or gunshots — may be what’s upsetting. For others, it’s the whole package: the thunder, the lightning, the change in barometric pressure, the static electricity, even the scent of rain. And still other dogs have generalized, daily anxiety that’s made worse by storms. It’s important to work with your veterinarian to determine whether your dog is suffering from noise anxiety, storm anxiety, separation anxiety or a combination of stresses, so you can find the right treatment to help your pet. If your dog’s anxiety is so extreme that they are hurting themselves or destroying property, your veterinarian may recommend medications to help. RELATED POST: Destructive Behavior in Pets: It’s Not Spite

APPROACH THE PROBLEM FROM MANY ANGLES

Because there can be many facets to storm anxiety, therapy usually involves a combination of environmental changes and behavior therapy to medications and other treatments. Here are 10 ways to help calm your fearful dog. Bring your dog indoors during a storm. It may sound obvious, but dogs with storm anxieties really do need a “shelter in the storm.” Create a safe place. Find an interior closet or room without windows and fill it with your dog’s favorite bed, toys and treats. Help your dog become accustomed to the area weeks before the first storm hits, so it’s a familiar and comforting experience. Consider crating your dog. If they already seek out their crate as a place of comfort, make it available during the storm — but always leave the door open. (Dogs who are locked inside a crate or room can break teeth and claws trying to escape.) Place a blanket or a sound-deadening cover over the crate to add another buffer to help your dog. Pull the shades. The flash of lightning can be unsettling for some dogs, so closing the shades and drapes can help shut out distractions and perhaps muffle the noise. Don shirts, wraps or capes. The ThunderShirt is designed to create a calming effect by applying gentle pressure to the dog’s torso. The Storm Defender Cape is marketed to reduce static electricity, but even wiping your dog with an anti-static laundry sheet may help. Make sure the laundry sheet is unscented, however, and be sure to dispose of the sheet properly, so your dog doesn’t eat it. Mutt Muffs ear covers help reduce sound and Doggles with dark lenses may help block out lightning strikes. Play soothing music. Consider playing “Through a Dog’s Ear” (music designed to calm dogs), turning on the radio or TV, or just using a white noise machine to help cancel out the sound of the storm. Use pheromones. For some dogs, products such as the Adaptil diffuser, spray or collar can help them feel a little calmer. Try desensitization and counterconditioning. To help desensitize your dog to storm sounds, on days without storms, play a recording of thunder at a volume so low that it’s not upsetting to them. Then offer your dog treats or a stuffed Kong to counter-condition, or help them associate a positive with the perceived negative of the recorded sounds. Over several days to weeks, in 10-minute sessions, gradually increase the volume of the recording, always pairing it with the treats or a toy. This may help some dogs learn to not be afraid of the noise. However, the fear may be rooted in other aspects of the storm (changes in barometric pressure, static electricity, etc.) so your dog may need additional therapies. Work with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. For some dogs with intense fears, it may take patience, dedication and the guidance of a behavior specialist to help your dog learn how to weather the storm. RELATED POST: Pop, Pop, KaBOOM! Managing Your Pet’s Fireworks Fear The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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