This summer has been full of some wild weather! We are in another long stretch of thunderstorms, right on the heels of firework-heavy holidays in both Canada and the USA. If you have a dog that suffers from thunder and/or fireworks phobia, you know all too well how hard this time of year can be on our pups. This blog will teach you how to help support your dog through these stressful situations.
First Off, Here Are Some Signs Of Storm Phobia:
- excessive licking
- urinating/defecating in the house
- trying to escape or hide
- looking to you for comfort
Although a clear cause is unknown, some dogs react more severely than others which could be due to genetics, breed, socialization or a lack thereof, and negative experiences. Some pups will start to display signs of fear and anxiety prior to a storm due to darkening skies, barometric pressure changes, increased wind, or rain without thunder present.
How Can You Help?
- Provide a safe place for your pup where there is less stimuli from the storm. This could be a windowless room, their kennel with a blanket covering it, or closing the blinds. It can also be beneficial to turn on some sort of white noise - an app on your phone, the radio, or the TV, to try to drown out the thunder.
- Comfort them! There is some bad information circulating out there that indicates if you comfort your pup while they are anxious, they will see this as a reward for “bad” behaviour. This has been proven to be untrue, and in their heightened state of anxiety your dog is not in the right mindset to learn. Offering them calm comfort so as not to add to their anxiety (they can pick up on our stress, so try not to be outwardly worried about the storm or their behaviour) can definitely help, especially when your dog has a close bond to you.
- Even if your dog shows unwanted behaviour like peeing or pooping in the house, don’t yell at them or otherwise punish them. These behaviours are coming from a place of fear, not bad behaviour, and adding in punishment could make their storm phobia worse.
- Use a body wrap. You can find capes, vests, and even ear wraps that can help make your pet feel calmer. They apply gentle pressure which can help soothe them, and some ear wraps assist in blocking out noise.
- Make it a thunder party! This will likely only be effective if your dog has a more mild thunder phobia, but try to encourage playtime as an outlet for their nervous energy and a distraction. It is important not to force your dog to play if they are uninterested as this could lead to more negative associations.
- Distract them with a tasty treat! Chewing is a form of natural stress relief for dogs, so give them their favourite chew toy along with some peanut butter (xylitol free as this sweetener is highly toxic for dogs) or another favourite snack. This will help create positive associations as well as distract them.
- Give them a natural calming product, such as healthybud’s calming aid. This is best given ahead of the storm if you know it is coming but can also be given as a treat and distraction during a storm.
- If your dog suffers from extreme storm or firework anxiety, speak to your vet about prescription medication options. There are a variety of medications from antidepressants to anti-anxiety to sedatives, but your vet can help recommend which option is best for you bud. Some medications need to be given daily while others are used when a stressful event such as a storm or fireworks will be happening, but must be given anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to be effective. These options usually work best when paired with other management techniques like the ones listed above.
We hope that some of these tips make this stormy weather more manageable for you and your pup!