Summer is finally here. The long days of soaking up the summer sun, indulging in delicious ice cream are now in full effect. Another hallmark sign of summer? Thunderstorms. Sometimes without a moment’s notice, the sky will turn dark, thunder will rumble and sheets of rain will come pouring down.
As many dog lovers know, thunderstorms are terrifying for some dogs. Out of my two dogs, my larger dog goes into a state of panic when a thunderstorm rolls in (my smaller dog pays no attention whatsoever to thunderstorms … or really any loud noises except for the doorbell). As I know first hand, it’s deeply upsetting to watch your furry best friend become paralyzed by a thunderstorm. They hide in a corner, shaking, panting uncontrollably and no matter what you do, you just can’t get them to calm down.
But why do thunderstorms bother dogs so much? How come one of my dogs is terrified but the other is indifferent? How can you help your dog who is anxious during thunderstorms?
Dogs Are Scared By More Than Just the Noise
Certainly, the large booms of thunder are scary, sometimes even for people, so of course a dog has the potential to spooked too. But it’s more than just the roaring sounds. Recent studies by scientists and veterinarians in clinical research, say that the sound of thunder is just a small percentage of what is upsetting to dogs.
Some studies show that the uncomfortable feeling of static electricity is what is so unsettling for dogs. The change to the atmosphere during a thunderstorm can create a build-up of static electricity in a dog’s coat and can even produce painful shocks.
Dr. Nicholas Dodman is the director of the Animal Behavior Department at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Dodman says that dogs may experience numerous shocks from static electricity during thunderstorms, which explains why dogs tend to run towards the room or place that are grounded. Basements, bathtubs, or other enclosed spaces are grounded, for instance. So now that you understand why your dog panics during a storm, how you can ease their fears?
How to Ease Your Dogs Anxiety
Having to watch your best friend suffer through a thunderstorm (sometimes daily in the summertime) is not a fun experience. Even though you know they are safe, they don’t understand what’s going on.
Thankfully, there are many ways to help alleviate your pooches anxiety. With some trial and error to figure out the best treatment (or possibly a combination of treatments), you can help your dog feel safe and secure.
Thundershirts are a drug-free, all natural way to provide relief. The Thundershirt comes in different sizes and is inexpensive. The vest is wrapped around the dog and applies gentle, constant pressure. It’s a similar idea to swaddling an infant, the dog is receiving one giant hug. It might be a good idea to put the Thundershirt on even when there isn’t a storm, so that way the dog doesn’t associate the Thundershirt with terror. You can order online, or find at your local pet store. Anxiety Wrap offers a similar product.
2. Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy is safe and natural and can be bought online or at your local health food or pet store. All you have to do is add two drops into their drinking water and it works for animals who have a fear of thunder or fireworks, or in general have been through a traumatic situation. When I know a thunderstorm is coming, I give my dog Rescue Remedy and then put on his Thundershirt. This combination seems to work the best for him, but of course, all dogs are different.
3. Storm Defender
With the changes to the atmosphere during a thunderstorm, an uncomfortable build-up of static electricity to the dog’s coat can produce painful shocks. To help alleviate the static, Storm Defender is a cape with a silver, anti-static lining. According to their website, there is learning involved and maximum efficiency is reached after the dog has worn the cape for two or three thunderstorms. You can buy the Storm Defender online here and satisfaction is 100 percent guaranteed, so if happens to not work, you can return the cape for a full refund.
4. Create a Comfy Place for Them to Hide
Creating a cozy, comfortable place for your dog in a room that’s enclosed (such as a closet or bathroom) might work. Adding in a loud radio or a white-noise machine could do the trick too. There is also such a thing as dog-calming music.
5. Consider Seeing a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist
If you find that nothing else works, your dog should not have to suffer. Ask for advice from your veterinarian and consider someone with unique training in the area of anxiety in dogs. For more severe cases of anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about what type of prescription drug might be a good fit. Personally, I try to find a natural remedy that works, but I do have a prescription for my dog’s anxiety in case there is a particularly bad thunderstorm.
While many dog guardians believe that providing comfort to their dog during a thunderstorm is a bad idea and will only reinforce the “negative behavior,” comforting your dog is perfectly fine. Snuggle up with him/her on the couch and try to use positive stimuli, such as treats and other distractions. Our dogs are our best friends and it’s important we provide as much consolation as we can during their time of need!
What techniques work best for your dog during a thunderstorm? Do you use a method that wasn’t listed above? Share in the comments with other dog lovers!
Lead image source: Edd Prince/Flickr