Spring and summer often bring major thunderstorms, and with thunder, the dogs seem to go crazy. Why is that? Your guard dog, who is willing to attack every innocent person that rings the door bell, turns in to a pile of mush and fear when the rain drops come. And it even seems to happen when you do not even realize there’s a storm brewing. You could sleep through it, the raindrops on the roof. But, for your four legged friend, it’s a total nightmare and the cause of many sleepless nights.
Is Storm Phobia Real?- And How Do We Help Our Pet Cope?
Yes, story phobia is a real thing, it’s well documented, and unfortunately it’s common. The pacing, panting, hiding, crying, clawing and chewing may be symptoms, and as a pet owner, it’s sad to see your companion in such anxiety. Researchers do not know all of the details, but it appears that our animals are just more sensitive. They are sensitive to the sounds, the changes in pressure, static electricity, and the low sounds that are unnoticeable to our human ears. And the anxiety gets worse through the season as the storm frequency increases, and most animals do not grow out of it.
While any dog can be susceptible to this behavior, certain breeds, such as herding dogs seem to be more prone. Also, animals that are already more anxiety prone and fearful are also more prone to storm phobia.
We have a few tips that may help the anxiety of animals during storms.
1. Reward calm behavior year round.
We often unknowingly contribute to our animals’ fears. When we coddle them and otherwise encourage their behavior, it is essential a reward, and acknowledgement that they are right in their fears and anxieties. Of course, by this, we do not mean to discipline your animal for their natural instinct, but instead, when you reward calm behavior year round, and then calm behavior during a storm, they animal may be more conditioned to not panic.
Practice calming your animals outside of the stressful situation, and reward them for their cooperation. The calming settling behavior will become natural to them, and they will be more inclined to exhibit calm behavior during a storm as well.
2. Find a safe place.
Give your pet an opportunity to find a safe sense of shelter in a storm. It may be a small room, a crate, or under a blanket. It may be a room with calming music to drown out the sound of the storm. Your pet should have the opportunity to find a safe and comfortable place to sleep.
3. Try some more unconventional treatments.
Some of these have only anecdotal effects, but for some animals, a snug sweater helps. It is similar to a swaddled baby, who feels safe and comforted. Desensitizing your animal may have some effect as well- so try playing storm sounds during the winter to condition your animal to the sounds without all the other stressors present.
4. Medication may help.
You can contact your vet for further suggestions, but many dogs respond well to medication to reduce anxiety, and this may be an available option for your pet.
If all else fails, let them in and keep them cozy. This season will pass, and then you won’t have to worry about it until the next round of storms. Most importantly, though, keep your animal safe by making sure he has plenty of access to shelter and safety during a storm. The health and safety of your pet is worth far more than a night or two of missed sleep.