Is your dog scared of storms? Your pet is not alone. Sadly, animal shelters see an uptick in strays after thunderstorms.
Pets that aren’t properly confined may run off in frantic fear of the deafening noise; other pets are abandoned when their owners decide they can no longer handle their erratic behavior.
What kind of severe reactions to thunderstorms are we talking about here? Some canines have hurtled themselves through plate glass windows; cats have hidden behind freezers only to be burned by the coils in the back. (Dogs are more commonly scared of loud noises than cats.)
Other severe reactions can include destroying furniture, soiling carpets, not wanting to go outside for hours after the storm and developing an all-out fear of other loud noise (or even not-so-loud noise).
Let’s hope your pet isn’t that bad off.
In this article, we’ll talk about what kinds of things you can do to soothe your dog during a thunderstorm.
Calming Your Pet
First, find a comfortable place — a ridiculously plush dog bed, a rug, a crate or space under a bed, even in the bathtub — that the pet thinks of as a safe haven. Offer a few reassuring words. You might want to remind your pet that a cherished toy is still here, just waiting to be played with.
But don’t overly cuddle or appear yourself to be anxious — your scaredy dog will pick up on that and will remain fearful. In fact, a couple of veterinarians told me you should not say anything while the storm passes, or even look the dog in the eyes, to avoid giving “cues” that something is wrong.
Other methods that may help:
- Music can soothe phobic pets. Play the music as needed, not continuously; otherwise your pet can become desensitized.
- Melatonin, an over-the-counter hormone, has been shown to calm some pups. They remain alert, not sleepy, but thunder just doesn’t bother them any more. Melatonin varies by manufacturer, so you’ll want to talk to your vet about what brand and dosage to give. Other holistic remedies are available.
Does the Thundershirt Work?
For the past few years, we’ve been watching a product called the Thundershirt. When worn on your pet (like a shirt, naturally), it applies gentle, constant pressure to help calm the pet during stormy weather.
But that’s not all. You don’t have to wait for a thunderboomer (or a fireworks show) to come along. You can use it any time your dog is anxious.
For example, the makers of Thundershirt say, the garment comes in handy when your pet is very excitable with strangers, pulling on the leash, has separation anxiety or is just generally weirded out in training situations.
But, does it work? Here at Pets Adviser, we were skeptical at first. But we have heard good feedback from pet owners. There is a money-back guarantee, and the makers of this product have claimed an 80 percent “significant improvement” rate.
Here’s what one customer tells us: “I bought one and it just calms my dog, Sasha, right down. We had a huge thunder and lightning storm at 3 a.m., I found Sasha on the floor in a quivering mass of fear. I put the T-shirt on her and [she] was so much calmer, no shivering, she went back to sleep.”
By the way, the Thundershirt isn’t really a shirt. (It’s not a cape either.) It’s more like a series of flaps that wrap and strap (with Velcro) around your pooch. But the concept makes sense. After all, we swaddle our own infants to calm them, right? And some kids with behavioral issues can be calmed with the use of “pressure shirts” and weighted vests to help with focus.
For more info, check out the Thundershirt on Amazon.com. Note to cat owners: They make a Thundershirt for cats now too!
4 Quick Tips for Calming a Dog During Thunderstorms
- Don’t excessively coddle and comfort and over soothe your pet . Seriously. He’ll instantly pick up on this blatant pandering, and it will freak him out even more. Basically you want to try to act like nothing’s wrong. (On the other hand, it should go without saying that you absolutely should never punish or yell at your dog for being clingy or somewhat “obsessive” during a storm.)
- Use a quiet spot in your home as a shelter of sorts. Let the dog stay in the room with you, and keep a nice warm blanket for him to snuggle with. Also, provide a favorite toy to help provide a distraction.
- Turn off the TV or radio — well, any loud noise. The weather is loud enough for your poor puppy, so it’s best not to make the situation even more intense than it already is. Gentle music, as noted above, may be all right.
- Sounds ridiculous, but simply try to distract him. Try playing his favorite game, rewarding him with treats. The hope is that he’ll eventually associate lightning and thunder with good stuff rather than bad.
Of course, if you want to do a sort of “DIY” Thundershirt without shelling out 40 dollars, you can simply wrap your dog in some ACE bandages. That’s right, kind of like a mummy. Or try wrapping an old sweatshirt or beach towel around the pooch. Anything that can wrap around the chest or neck. The idea, after all, is to try to apply a gentle, soothing pressure.