Eight Steps to Calm Your Dog in Storms
It is very common for dogs and other animals to be fearful of thunder & storms. Here is some points that can help both you and your dog when there is a storm on its way:
1. Predict the problem
The benefit of thunder is it is predictable. By keeping an eye to the sky or listening to weather forecasts you can get a good idea of when to prepare.
The major problem with thunderstorms is that:-
Your dog hears the thunder booms and lightning cracks
Your dog will see the darkness before the storm
Your dog will feel the storm if he or she is left outside during or before a storm.
Your dog will smell the approach of the storm which is why you dog is so able to predict the storm before you can.
So if you are aware a storm is coming, bring your dog inside or relocate your dog to a safe, soundproof area.
2. Be home with your pet.
Unfortunately it is not easy to always be home when a storm is coming, however, if you can, it is best to be with your pet whilst there is a storm. If you cannot perhaps call a neighbor or a friend to pop over and sit inside with them until you can get there.
Dogs left at home during a thunderstorm are much more seriously affected than dogs which are inside. Dogs left outside will attempt to escape form your yard or to ‘inscape’ into your home. While the damage to your fences and your home can be extreme and costly it’s the damage your dog could do to itself that is dangerous – or deadly.
The best location for your dog is the most sound-proof area of your home.
3. Place your dog in a sound-proof Den
Thunder is noisy, looks scary, smells a lot and your dog will feel it if outside, when you place your dog inside you can set up a “den”.
Go from room to room to find the most sound-proof location but you are likely to find that:-
- Brick walls are much better at sound proofing than timber walls and block walls (e.g. Besser block walls) are often the best
- Walk in wardrobes are often very sound proof because they are surrounded by many walls and the texture of your clothes (and the smell of your shoes) may help your dog to be comforted
- Stop firework noise entering through windows of your Den by covering the windows with heavy curtains.
The main thing to remember with a den is that it is quiet but also safe for your pet e.g. if your dog loves to chew shoes then a walk in robe might not be the best choice for you.
4. Use masking noise
Another way of reducing the noise is to mask it by adding other noises to the Den your dog is in. This is the same principle as the music used in shopping center’s to mask the noise of activity in the shop.
Play a radio on low in the Den or a TV can also work.
5. Use medication where needed
If your dog is seriously affected, your vet will be able to prescribe medication that may help. Generally speaking a ‘when you need it’ occasional use medication can be helpful but keep in mind that this medication needs to be given a certain time before the storm – 1-3 hours – so this is not always the most useful method.
6. Use Pheromones
Dog pheromones (called Adaptil) can be very effective for calming noise-fearful dogs with up to 70% effectiveness.
Adaptil comes as a diffuser that you can place in your home or den or alternatively a collar that the dog can wear.
7. Practice calming strategies
When your dog is panicking, it needs to develop a calm demeanor before working itself up to the stage that it cannot be calmed. Thus, your job is to do whatever you need to do to create calmness.
You may be able to calm your dog by:-
- Using calming massage concentrating on the major muscle groups such as the cheek, forehead, neck and shoulder muscles
- Using firm finger-tip massage doing a circle about the size of a 50 cent piece. Use your thumb and index finger in tandem
- Wrapping your dog’s body tightly with a towel or a compression suit.
- Giving your dog a firm hug around his or her chest
- And showing your dog YOU are calm by:-
- cradling your dog’s face in your hands as if it was a football and make it look at you
- then blinking your eyes as if you were falling asleep
- show a soft smile (and certainly not a worried expression)
- and whispering to your dog is the softest whisper you can manage.
8. Teach your dog to tolerate thunder noise
Desensitising your dog to the noise of fireworks is often possible using quality recordings of thunder.
Once purchasing the CD or audio file you need to:
- Determine if the recording, when played through your audio equipment, does alarm your dog but do this once only.
- If so, expose your dog to a level of the recording that causes NO fear and repeat that daily for a few days.
- Then incrementally increase the volume of the noise daily while ensuring your dog remains calm and content.
- Once successful, the same noise tracks can be used mask the noise of fireworks as detailed in section 5 above.
- If the recording played through your audio equipment does NOT alarm your dog, then you can immediately move to using this as a masking (see section 5).
Solving fear of noises is very complex and difficult. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are having problems with your pet.