Anyone who owns a dog with storm anxiety knows how traumatic of an experience it can be. Pinpointing exactly what sets a dog off is difficult. It can be a number of things; loud noises such as thunder, atmospheric pressure changes, rain, or intense wind are some examples. Knowing which component of a storm affects a dog is not as important as preparing them before a storm hits. During storm season, keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Once the storm arrives, a dog may be too over stimulated to focus on you and attempted distractions.
Getting your dog feeling safe is the main goal. Having a comforting environment such as a crate or well-insulated room can increase confidence. Forcing a dog outside in bad weather is intense, so be sure to try and walk or let out your dog before the storm rolls in. While they are calm enough to concentrate on a task, try giving them something else to focus on prior to the weather change. Some good options are Kongs stuffed with peanut butter, food puzzles, or training sessions. Soothing music can be another useful distraction. Products such as Thundershirts or weighted blankets are great tools to help with anxiety. These should be used before the storm hits, as anxious behavior can make a dog more difficult to touch or even cause them to act out in ways they normally wouldn’t.
Fear can also make dogs destructive, so placing them in a crate or dog proof area helps prevent practice of damaging behavior. A dog will mostly likely sense the storm before we do, and more subtle signs of anxiety may be panting, pacing, whining, shaking, or trailing close behind you. Catching your dog before they enter panic mode is key. The more scared a dog is, the more difficult it is for them to concentrate on things other than anxiety.
Aromatherapy is a great calming method. Lavender, chamomile, and other essential oils can be spread on a dog’s collar. There are also homeopathic herbs that can be added to food or treats. These should be given preemptively as well, before a dog becomes too anxious to eat. If your dog becomes stressed to a point that is out of control, consulting a veterinarian about storm meds is another option. Medication should always be a last resort, but some dogs are so terrified of storms it can be the only option to calm them.
Bad weather can be frightening, but there are numerous ways to reduce their stress load. A little extra attention and planning go a long way. While fearful dogs may never enjoy storms, it is possible to make them a more tolerable and less intimidating situation.