There’s lots of thunderstorms and heavy rain affecting the UK at the moment which can play havoc with your pets. Many dog owners will be looking for ways to calm pets and keep them safe whilst the storm rolls in. Dogs and other animals are very sensitive to loud noises, and can be left traumatised by the loud and unexpected nature of thunder and lightning. To ease their anxiety there are some simple steps you can take.
Don’t make a big deal out of it
One of the simplest ways to help your dog during a thunderstorm is to keep it cool and act like nothing out of the ordinary is going on. This can be quite difficult to do as many humans are also frightened of thunderstorms! Your dog will easily pick up negative signals and will feel your unease, so try to keep this to a minmum.
Check the weather in your area
Keeping up to date with the latest forecasts will be a great way to prepare yourself for an approaching storm. The piercing sound of thunder is enough to frighten any animal. It’s the unexpected and sporadic nature of UK storms that can catch anyone out. There are some great smartphone apps that notify you as soon as lightning and thunder is nearby. The app we use is called Home and Dry by MetDesk and you can set up weather alerts direct to your phone.
Gather favourite toys
Many dogs will have a collection of toys, some of which will be their firm favourites! Whether it’s a ball, a soft toy or even a blanket, your dog will be comforted by these items. Gather the toys in a pile and place them in your dog’s preferred room. This should give something to distract them and will help take their mind off the thunderstorm.
Minimise thunderstorm sounds
In the rooms that your dog can access, draw the curtains and close the blinds to prevent lightning from adding to the anxiety of the situation. If there is a quiet space in your house it may be worth moving your dog and all the toys into this area whilst the storm is overhead. If you have access to an Alexa device, or even just YouTube, try playing relaxing sounds and music in the background. There’s a nice ‘Music for Dogs’ playlist in Spotify which has classical music that might help.
Turn on the TV
What better way to spend a stormy afternoon than to stick the telly on and watch your favourite movie. Some dogs respond really well to the television being on and you might find it is a helpful distraction during thunderstorms. We discuss the topic of dogs watching TV in our blog what dogs really see when they watch the TV. Our dog Poppy gets very distracted by the sight of other dogs and animals, taking a particular interest. Putting on a nature documentary might be the ideal distraction.
Make a den
If your dog is crate trained they’ll probably find comfort in hiding away during the loudest moments. Dogs are den dwellers and will often respond to danger by finding a place to hide. If they don’t have a crate, you could create a den for them. Cover a table or chair with a blanket or make an extra comfy spot on your sofa. If things get a bit too much for them, at least they’ll have somethwhere safe to snuggle up.
Don’t leave your dog alone
If your dog is quite nervous during thunderstorms they may also suffer from separation anxiety. During the thunderstorm your dog will just want to be by your side. Try to make sure you’re at home with them when the weather turns bad. Just being in the same room provides your dog with some level of reassurance that everything is ok. Don’t create a big fuss as this may have the reverse affect.
Dog calming products
There are several products available that help to calm your dog during stressful moments. One of the big brands is Adaptil, who make plug-in diffusers and collars. They give off pheromones which provide extra comfort to your dog, particularly during storms or firework displays. They’re also great in helping to housetrain and crate train new puppies, as it helps reduce anxiety during unfamilar experiences. Adaptil can be purchased from Waitrose.
Another great product for thunderstorms is the thundershirt. The coat is a well known remedy for stress. It applies gentle pressure to the dog’s body, dramatically reducing anxiety levels. It’s as easy as putting the thundershirt on and then watching as your dog calms right down. You can purchase the thundershirt and other calming dog clothing from the UK’s largest online pet retailer VioVet.