Our top 5 tips to help your dog through thunderstorms
It’s a really common problem for dogs to be scared and/or anxious during thunderstorms. This is because thunder storms are loud, unpredictable and can bring unexpected flashes of light. As we can’t explain what is happening in a way they will fully understand, thunderstorms can terrify a usually calm and confident dog. The same can be true of fireworks.
Thunderstorms also build up, and dogs are especially sensitive to the atmospheric and other changes preceding the event. This can cause anxiety before the storm even hits.
Remember to practice positive reinforcement with your dog. Don’t scold or punish for the thunder phobia – the behaviour is the result of fear, not disobedience. Stay calm yourself – your dog will look to you for reassurance and to understand that there is no real danger.
With this all in mind, here is our advice on other useful steps you can take.
1. A safe place
The first thing to make sure your dog has during a thunderstorm, is a safe space. If they have been happily crate trained then they will already have this established, but if not a cosy space where they can hide. If you can close curtains or shutters to block the visual impact of the storm too, this can help.
2. A thunder shirt
We’ve read many positive reports from our “Les Amis” community singing the praises of the efficacy of these shirts. They follow the theory that pressure applied to a dog’s torso causes a calming effect, similar to swaddling an infant or hugging a person. Available on Amazon and elsewhere, they are definitely worth a try if your dog struggles in storms. Or you could make your own wrap to help calm your dog. The infographic below shows you how you can do this.
3. Rescue remedy
This is a homeopathic remedy that many pet owners swear by. It contains 5 single flower essences and can help with all kinds of stressful situations for your dog, especially thunderstorms. It is safe, gentle and non-toxic and often has an immediate calming effect. However, it is not a magic solution for long standing behavioural problems or anxiety, rather it can help reduce stress and anxiety in timid dogs. It will not remove their natural instincts, but it can help your pet adapt those instincts to their environment
4. CBD oil
CBD oil is a type of cannabinoid – the chemical found naturally in marijuana plants. Even though it comes from cannabis, CBD doesn’t create a “high” effect or any form of intoxication. It can be used for pets to help with anxiety, but at the time of writing it is not yet widely available in France. If you pop over to our Facebook community, there are people who can give you advice on where it can be purchased and how it can be used.
5. Thunderstorm Music
This can work in 2 ways. You can try to mask the sound of a storm with a radio or white noise. Playlists of dog calming music are available to help the most anxious or fearful dog.
You can also use actual audio of storms in training to gently help desensitise your dog. You can buy CDs or download playlists. Start by playing it at a very low volume while offering positive interaction and high-value treats, and gradually increase the volume over a long period, for example, several weeks. This desensitisation can help to lessen or completely eliminate anxiety during storms.
Here is a link from National Geographic which explains why this problem is prevalent: https://api.nationalgeographic.com/distribution/public/amp/news/2018/04/animals-pets-summer-storms-weather?fbclid=IwAR3T4a_howxtExdmtUwKJRO5GpehRMOl8SJJFWXP_kMOURKvTvtGKQ0Uaeo
As with everything, advice from a trusted vet is always a good port of call too.