As we slowly begin to transition into spring weather you may notice that we begin to see more thunderstorms. Storms can lead to some pretty scared and anxious dogs. Have you ever wondered why your dog is afraid of thunderstorms? Most of us think that it’s the loud booms and flashes of lightening but that might not be all of it.
Some studies have shown that it is actually the uncomfortable feeling of static electricity, especially the feeling of it tingling through the dog’s fur, that makes them feel uncomfortable. This can prompt them to run around the house whimpering and looking for places to hide.
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, the director of the Animal Behavior department at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says that dogs may experience numerous shocks from static electricity during thunderstorms. This explains why they tend to run toward the rooms and places in your home that are grounded.
The number one grounded place dogs hide when a storm hits…the bathtub. Your bathtub is actually an excellent place for your dog to remain before, during, and even after a storm passes—as it can take a while for your dog to stop feeling the effect of the storm, even after the rain, thunder, and lightning have passed. The porcelain of the bathtub effectively blocks electricity from traveling, and this is likely why dogs often jump in the tub when they feel a storm approaching.
So what can you do to prevent the rising anxiety and fear in your dog when a storm approaches? There are a couple of things you can try.
Create a safe place. Try creating an environment where your dog can go when they are scared. But remember, this must be a safe location from their perspective, not yours. Notice where they go (or try to go) when frightened. If possible, give them access to that place. If they are trying to get inside the house, consider installing a dog door. If they are trying to get under your bed, give them access to your bedroom. Just be attentive and try to help them feel less scared.
Distractions. Try getting your dog to not focus on the storm and to focus on other things. I realize this is probably easier said than done. Maybe pull out their favorite toy when a storm is rolling in and see if they’ll play. You can also try treats. Give your dog their favorite treat or a special treat during a storm to see if that will take their mind off things. Both of these methods of distraction are meant to try and change your dog’s focus from being terrified of a storm to associating the scary thing with something positive. These may not always work but it is worth a try to see if you can calm your dog down.
Calming Chews. We have mentioned our calming chews before and know that they work. We have several different brands that you can try. We have Herbsmith Calm Shen, Pet Naturals Calming Treats, Composure Treats, and Pet Releaf Edibites. Calm Shen comes in both powder form and a treat form. Pet Naturals Calming Treats and Composure Treats are both in a convenient treat form which might be easier to feed your dog. Pet Releaf Edibites are treats as well but they also offer an oil that you might find easier to feed your dog. It’s all a matter of preference.
Recently, Herbsmith came out with a new immediate calming treat called July Third. This product is formulated to help dogs maintain a normal, content, and relaxed disposition in times of environmental stress and in situations that may cause anxiousness, such as changes in your pet’s daily routine, separation, noise from ‑fireworks and thunderstorms, trips to the groomer, meeting strangers, traveling, or boarding. You can use July Third the day before or the day of those situations that may cause stress and tension for a short-term immediate effect.
If you have any questions on any of these products please come in and talk to us!