How to help your dog during a summer thunderstorm
It’s been a typical British summer this year with a heatwave, followed by lots and lots of rain and thundery showers and this can be a distressing time for our pets as many of them are negatively affected by the loud bangs and flashes of a summer thunderstorm. But what can you do to help them through it?
If your pet hasn’t experienced a storm before then it can be difficult to know how they will react but if they generally hate loud or sudden noises, fireworks or Christmas crackers then it is highly likely that they will find a thunderstorm very stressful as well. As with fireworks outside, this can leave your dog feeling frantic and overcome with fear but there are some things you can do to help.
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Keep any eye on the weather
Forewarned is forearmed and the more prepared you are, the better you will be able to help your dog when the storm hits. Weather apps are generally fairly accurate when it comes to letting you know when the thunder is likely to be rolling in, but they don’t always get it right. Try looking out of the window! See if dark clouds are gathering or you can see thunder flies or feel electricity in the air. If you know for sure that a storm is about to happen, the most important things is that you stay calm, even if you don’t feel it. Your dog may be able to sense a storm coming - and that you are agitated about the potential effect on their behaviour, so it’s important that you do your best to make them feel as though it is nothing to worry about.
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Look for signs of stress
Once the storm has started, look for signs of stress in your dog. These can be expressed in many different ways and can sometimes be subtle and easy to miss, so make sure you are paying attention to them, without feeding into their stress by overreacting. Signs of stress may include:
- Panting excessively
- Putting their tail between their legs
- Dry mouth (Indicated by the fact that they are drinking more water, so make sure that their water bowl is topped up).
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Make them comfortable, safe and calm
There are lots of steps you can take to reduce your dog’s stress levels during a thunder storm. The important thing is not to fuss over them too much as this can make them more stressed or give them negative associations with certain actions:
- Keep them indoors – don’t let them out until the storm has passed, in order to reduce their exposure to the storm and limit their chances of running off and getting lost.
- Distract them – switch on the TV or radio to mask the sound of the thunder – but not too loud if they’re not used to it.
- Close the curtains so they can’s see any flashes of lightning. If it’s dark outside make sure you have lights on indoors to make the flashes outside less obvious.
- Keep calm and carry on. Although it may be difficult to not hug your pet if they are stressed, this kind of fuss may make them worse. Keep calm, act normal and carry on as if nothing is happening outside. This will give your dog a positive cue to stay calm too.
- Let them whine, pace and hide if they want to. Preventing them may make them worse and most storms are brief so once they have found a safe space and appear calm, try not disturb them.
- If they have a preferred safe place to hide, such as their bed, a crate or under the bed, try putting some clothes you have worn down for them in this spot as they may find the smell reassuring.
- Try to stay home if possible don’t go out and leave your pet if you can avoid it.
- Don’t be cross with them. This can make the situation much worse – and more distressing next time too. If your pet is home alone during a storm and they rip something up or poop everywhere, don’t get angry as this will. Not help the situation at all.
It's best to keep your dog indoors during a storm. Photo by Chewy on Unsplash
If your dog is really traumatised by thunderstorms then it may be worth speaking to your vet about it. They can prescribe some calming medication. You can also use sound therapy to slowly desensitise them to loud noises and your vet or a qualified animal behaviourist will be able to advise you on this.
Is your dog affected by thunder and lightning? Do you have any tips for dealing with it? Let us know in the comments section below!
Main photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash