The wind howls, thunder crashes in the distance, and your dog begins panting, shaking, and looking for a place to hide. Do you sound familiar? Fear of storms is a very common problem in dogs, especially sheepdog breeds. In the most extreme cases, animals can hurt themselves when they panic or even become destructive or aggressive. If left untreated, dogs’ fear of storms worsens over time. People with pets who live in areas with frequent storms can suffer greatly from fear of their animals. But there is good news. There are many ways to curb your fear of storms. With a little trial and error, you can find a treatment (or mix of treatments) that will help your dog feel safe and secure during storms.
In mild cases, new conditioning is sometimes enough to reduce anxiety. These conditions can also prevent puppies who haven’t been through many storms yet from developing fear. The key is to associate something your dog loves with the first signs of a storm, and keep offering it while it lasts. Try the sweets they like the most, such as chicken or cheese, or entertaining toys like balls and strings. Patricia McConnell, a renowned ethnologist and author of the book At the Other End of the Leash, explains it this way: «The aim is to condition the dog to associate thunder with something that he loves so that his emotional response to noise is more joyful. that of fear ».
Create your own storm
For mild cases, storm recordings can also be effective. Since you cannot always predict when storms will occur, these recordings will allow you to control the frequency and intensity of the experience. Victoria Stilwell, a well-known advocate of positive reinforcement-based training, has released a collection of CDs for treating fear in dogs featuring recordings of storms. You can start by turning them low while giving treats or playing with your dog. The goal is to gradually increase your dog’s ability to remain calm during recordings. When there is a real storm, it will weather it better.
Dress up your dog as a superhero
Many people have noticed that when a storm is approaching, the dogs go to the bathtub, the sink, or the basement drain (I have seen my dog, Blizzard, do this, a Samoyed cross with a double coat cap). Storm-related atmospheric changes can build up a quantity of static electricity in dogs’ fur that makes them uncomfortable and can even give them painful sparks. They look for water because it is a ground connection. To help alleviate the discomfort of static electricity, you can try the Thunder Shirt, which often reduces anxiety during storms.
Give your dog a portable hug
Another possibility to help your scared puppy is pressure bands. These tight-fitting vests put continuous, reassuring pressure on the dog’s torso. Zoologist Temple Grandin has investigated this method and discusses it in her book Animals Make Us Human. Dr. Grandin advises putting the bands on for 20 to 30 minutes, taking them off, and putting them back on after this same period of time. They are sold by various companies, but we especially like Anxiety Wrap and Thundershirt.
Home Storm Shelter
Your dog may try to find a safe place when a storm is approaching. You can make sure they have a comfortable place available. The ideal is to have a place underground and with acoustic insulation, but with light and heat. Your dog may like to get into a kennel or kennel, but you should avoid locking him up during storms, as confinement can increase the animal’s stress. You can use a fan, music or the TV as background noise. You can also use sound-isolating materials in the dog’s safe corner. Supplements or medication There are several options for treating your dog’s fear of storms.
Adaptil pheromones can be purchased in a diffuser, spray or collar and can reduce the dog’s anxiety, whether it is about fireworks, storms, travel or separation. There are many anecdotal cases where Adaptil has been shown to be effective during storms, in addition to a study published in the journal of the British Veterinary Association evaluating its specific use to reduce fear of storms.
This non-prescription supplement can be found easily. Dr. Dodman, in his book The Well-Adjusted Dog, states that he has seen some success stories, but that melatonin does not always work, although “it never hurts to try.” Ask your vet what dosage your dog needs.
+ Prescription medication.
Medications can be the salvation for dogs with a fear of storms, especially in severe cases. Your vet can inform you of the different options.
Pampering is therapeutic
There is a widespread myth that petting dogs when they are anxious, makes them more fearful. But gently calming and comforting a dog has a positive effect as long as loud noises and jerky movements are avoided, so go ahead with the pampering! What have you tried to alleviate your dog’s fear of storms? Let us know in the comments!