Storm anxiety affects many dogs, and unfortunately there’s no good way to predict which dogs or puppies will be affected.
Around the time of a storm you may see them vocalise, shake, hide, try to escape, or engage in destructive behaviours such as jumping at and damaging doors. If they escape they can easily become lost, injured or sadly, even lose their lives.
During a storm your pet needs to be able to access a place that they feel safest, and whilst it’s important that you don’t make a fuss, you need to be there for them if they need comfort. If we’re anxious, it will only reinforce that they are right to be, and further fuel their anxiety.
Here’s our top tips to manage storm anxiety, so that you can keep them safer:
1. Safely secure your pet before a storm
Those dogs with storm anxiety are far better at predicting and understanding the signs a storm is coming than we are. They show signs that they feel uneasy long before the storm actually occurs. Make sure your pet is safe, secure and unable to injure themselves even before the storm has begun. They will need to be in the house with you.
2. Calmer in a “safe” space
If they have a “safe space” in the home, a place they go to seek comfort, settle and relax, make sure they can access that area. If they have already learned to associate this spot with relaxation and good things, they often calm down once they are there.
3. Reduce exposure to light and noise
Close and block the windows where possible. Have the blinds down, or covers across the window to reduce the flashes of light seen. Providing some background noise for distraction, such as TV or radio, putting the dishwasher or washing machine on can help reduce the intensity of the noise too. If you have a house where you can’t cover the windows, there is the option of training your dog to wear an eye cover such as Doggles.
4. Calming garments
Products that hug your pet, such as a thunder shirt. They apply gentle, constant pressure and have been shown to be calming, similar to the effect of swaddling an infant.
5. Create a positive association and keep them distracted
This especially works well when they are younger. Try to give them a treat (such as in a Kong toy), on a LickiMat, or play a game at the time of the storm – the purpose of this is to distract them and help them form a positive association with the event (this works during desensitisation below too).
CDs with thunderstorm sounds can be used to slowly and gently introduce dogs to their sounds when they are young, or gently desensitise dogs from their phobia at any age. Note that if the light flashes are causing the storm anxiety – this alone won’t help.
7. Calming aids
Consider calming aids. These include artificial pheromones, which replicate the calming pheromones of dogs and can really aid in stress reduction. These can be provided via collars, sprays and room diffusers.
Every pet is different
It’s important to note that what works for one pet will not necessarily work for another. Many anxious pets need prescription medication together with home management of their anxiety, so use these tips as a handy guide, and if you’re still unsure or concerned, please chat with a Veterinarian.