How to keep dogs calm in storms

By Caroline Spencer – a dog behaviourist from ProDog Raw.

The Met Office is predicting that rain, thunderstorms and cooler temperatures will follow the UK’s ‘hottest day of the year’. Dog care professionals looking after nervous pets are likely to be concerned about how they can keep them calm in storms.

Anxiety can be a serious problem for dogs, whilst their acute hearing and change in atmospheric pressure means they sense bad weather from a much greater distance. We all want to keep pets content and safe, making this a prominent worry. Thankfully, there are things you can do to keep dogs relaxed during a storm.

Key signs of thunderstorm anxiety in dogs include panting or hiding, shaking, pacing, their ears being pulled back, and yawning. Storms can cause stress for various reasons; dogs often find the sound distressing, whilst air pressure changes, dark skies and static electricity can incite anxiety. To help your dog stay as relaxed as possible I would recommend the following:

Keep them inside and close your curtains

A dog might like being outside but during a storm it’s always best to keep them inside with you. Be prepared and encourage them to go to the toilet in advance, before closing your curtains or blinds to shelter them from bright lightning strikes – for lots of dogs, this is particularly alarming.

Create a calm atmosphere and safe space

Firstly, it’s important that you create a calm atmosphere and safe, nurturing space for your dog. If they respond positively to any type of relaxing music, consider playing that in the background, leave the TV on or play white noise. Of course, avoid any TV programmes with loud bangs! Be there for the dog, hold them, and utilise anything they find soothing, such as a blanket they love or their favourite toys.

You could also create a den inside. If a dog likes being in a crate, drape a blanket over it to muffle lights and sounds from the storm. Although, I would recommend keeping the door open so the dog doesn’t feel restricted – it should be a place of solace, not something that makes them feel more stressed.

Research also suggests that some dogs find fabric triggering; yours might feel more comfortable in a bathroom, where they can relax away from static materials.

Act normally

To create a calm atmosphere, you must act normally and stay relaxed yourself; dogs pay attention to your behaviour and if they see that you’re calm, this will show them there’s nothing to worry about. Use a calm voice and relaxed body language to avoid reinforcing your dog’s fear. Ultimately, if you’re nervous, they will be too.

Equally, try to avoid positively reinforcing your dog’s fear. If you lavish them with attention and praise while they’re howling, barking, or after having an accident, this can teach them that such behaviours garner attention. In these instances, support your dog with a calming hold or massage.

Use a body wrap

As high wind changes and barometric pressures during storms can make dogs anxious, body wraps often prove to be an invaluable investment. These wraps distribute firm, even pressure over the dog’s body, making it feel more secure.

If you don’t have a wrap, try a t-shirt that fits them instead – this can be a great, affordable alternative.

Create positive associations

Low arousal, low energy games like sniff-and-search activities reduce anxiety and help dogs better cope with the situation. Meanwhile, I would suggest you opt for long-lasting, natural treats like ostrich bones as chewing can reduce anxiety. Also, make sure your dog has consistent access to water so they don’t become dehydrated.

Consider supplements

Owners can invest in calming, natural supplements for their dog. At ProDog Raw we have an extensive range of supplements that support dogs’ wellbeing, while the Hush calming spray and Pet Remedy herbal calming products can be incredibly helpful for nervous dogs.

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