Thunder and lightning and wind, oh my! Astrophobia or “thunder phobia” can affect both humans and animals. For most dog parents, we don’t know what part of a thunderstorm causes their fear and anxiety. For some, it could be a change in their daily routine, maybe not going outside at the “normal time” or not being able to stay outside the usual amount of time.
Dogs have more sensitive hearing, and often sense the changes in air pressure or may hear the low-frequency rumblings of thunder long before we can. This could be why we see manifestations of anxiety before we even realize a storm is coming. Some veterinarians believe some dogs may experience shocks from the build-up of static electricity that accompanies thunderstorms. Whatever the reason, I’m going to try to offer some suggestions to help your dog’s anxiety, which may also help your apprehension about leaving them alone during a storm.
If you know that your dog has weather-related anxiety, you can prepare some things in advance.
- Create a Safe Space: Make sure your dog has a safe indoor space to go when they’re scared. If they’re crate trained, they probably already feels safest there. Just cover wire crates with a blanket to help absorb the sound, making sure you leave the door open so they don’t feel trapped. If your dog doesn’t have a crate, try creating a place in a corner or small bathroom. Fill his space with familiar items like his bed and favorite toys (I’ll share more about aromatherapy toys later). Close the blinds or curtains of any window so they can’t see the lightning flashes outside.
- Distract Them: You might try turning on the TV or playing calming music to help drown out the noise. If they’re feeling playful, grab a favorite toy and engage them in play. Be sure to reward them with their favorite treats.
- Prepare for the Next Storm: Try desensitizing your dog to the sounds of thunder. Start by playing those sounds quietly in the background as you play games or give him treats. Over the course of a few weeks, gradually increase the volume during your play sessions. This will help them associate the sounds of thunderstorms with happy times, instead of being alone and afraid.
When Calming a Dog…
Some dogs, may need additional help in the form of calming or anxiety products. Calming aids, ranging from sprays and diffusers to wraps and shirts, can help alleviate storm related anxiety. In more severe cases, a combination of two or more types of calming products may be beneficial.
- Consumables for Calming – Jeffers has a variety of consumables designed to help calm our “anxious” dogs. Which one you choose may depend on the delivery system and which method your dog prefers. For example, Mega-Calm is a powder supplement that can easily be mixed in with your dog’s food. Soft chews, biscuits or “sticks” are tasty and can be fed as a stand-alone treat. Examples of these would be Cosequin Calm, Pet-Ease, and True Hemp Calming Support. Another type of consumables are oils and tinctures. Howlin’ Hemp is a tincture that can be fed directly or put on your dog’s food. The BlackWing Farms line features several sprays that may be sprayed in your dog’s water, treats or even sprayed in the environment. HomeoPet has several homeopathic liquids that can be given directly in the mouth, placed on food or in water. K-9 Calm is a dispensable gel/paste that is dispensed via a syringe either orally or directly onto the food and begins working within 30 minutes.
- Sprays, Balms & Ointments – Balms are formulated in such a way that they can be massaged directly on your dog, applied to a bandana for your dog to wear or even placed on a cloth and hung near your dog’s crate, kennel or bed. The Sentry Good Behavior Spray, Calming Lavender Mist, or ThunderEase Calming Spray can be sprayed in crates, cages or even in the car, while others such as the BlackWing Farms collection can be sprayed in the drinking water, on food, sprayed in the environment or sprayed on a bandana for your dog to wear.
- Diffusers – Diffusers are perfect for use in your home. Just plug them in and let them work for 30 days. Sentry Calming Diffuser Kit and ThunderEase Calming Diffuser Kit are two examples of these very effective products. Diffusers are ideal for unexpected stressful events like storms, unexpected visitors and more.
- Clothing and Collars – The Thundershirt is a wonderful drug-free solution for canine anxiety and calms most within minutes of the first use. The constant, gentle pressure to your dog’s torso results in a calming effect for more than 80% that tried it. Perfect for storms, separation anxiety, travel stress and much more. Dog calming collars have sustained release synthetic pheromones for dogs & puppies and last up to 30 days.
- Toys and Aromatherapy – The Sentry Cuddlin’ Companion Plush is a cute, plush bear that becomes your “not so brave” pups best friend when you apply a few drops of calming drops or spray. The Aromadog Therapeutic Toys are infused with a calming, soothing blend of lavender essential oils which release into the air, helping anxious dogs feel relaxed and happy.
Visit Jeffers Pet for our full selection of Dog Anxiety & Calming Products.
Have questions? Please feel free to reach out with any additional questions via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 1-800-533-3377 and ask for Renee.
Information in this blog is purely for educational purposes only. It should in no way intended to undermine the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.
Renee Jones, CPDT-KSA, is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for JeffersPet and JeffersPet.com.