Warmer weather can often mean more thunderstorms. A drop in barometric pressure, loud noises and the darkening of skies can all have a negative impact on dogs. Below are some top tips to help your dog cope during a thunderstorm.
If your dog has shown signs that they might get nervous in a thunderstorm, playing desensitisation CDs or downloads that replicate storms and other noises can be very useful preparation. When playing the music quietly, you can either go about your normal routine or you could play with your dog. This will get them used to the noises and realising it isn’t anything to worry about. Over time, you can gradually build up the volume so that your dog’s tolerance levels improve. This can be especially useful for young dogs that have not had the potentially frightening experience of storms yet.
Another idea is to create a den. You can do this by covering their crate with a sheet or make a ‘dog nest’ in a cupboard, bathroom, a small windowless room or even a cardboard box. Fill it with their favourite blankets, toys, water bowls etc. to make your dog feel safe. Close windows and curtains to minimise the noise from the storm and bright flashes from lightning.
Look for the body language clues in your dog – they may show some anxiety long before you are aware, so act early – don’t wait until your dog is fully stressed. Signs to look out for include growling, barking, pacing, tucked ears, yawning and panting.
Mask the noise
To mask the noise you can do a number of things:
- Use white noise
- Play calming music to help drown out the sound of thunder
- Turn the TV or radio on
- Play some interesting videos
Make sure your dog has at least been to the toilet before the storm hits – watch the weather forecast and the sky to ensure you're prepared. Better still, take your dog out before the storm and make sure they have had a good walk and some fun, enriching training. By letting your dog utilise their nose, they will be relaxed and calm before the storm arrives. This will help them then deal with what comes. If your dog is already on edge when a storm comes, they are likely to struggle all the more.
While your dog is relaxed, you could put them in a special tight-fitting jacket called a thunder shirt. This has a comforting effect on some dogs. However, you should always take into account the weather, as you don’t want your dog to overheat.
Your dog can also tell when you are stressed, so you should try and remain calm yourself. Don’t jump out of your skin or ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ at the lightning - keep your body language calm and confident to show that they have nothing to worry about. Talk with a soothing voice. It's okay to cuddle your dog if that’s what they want – but if they take themselves to their den or even under your bed, that’s fine too - let them go where they feel comfortable.