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Summer thunderstorms are a common occurrence. If conditions are right, the sound of thunder can reach distances up to 10 miles away, which means even if the storm isn’t right above your house, your dog is going to hear it! With the ability to hear four times more acutely than humans, our furry friends will most likely feel like a thunderstorm is right outside the back door. Dogs are often scared by the severity of the sound. This noise, in addition to the bright flashes they’ll see from lightning, and it’s no wonder a dog can become panicked during this type of weather pattern.
Here are six tips we’d like to share with you to help your dog feel more at ease during a thunderstorm:
Model calm behavior. Dogs are intuitive animals and can sense fear or discomfort from humans. If you're reacting negatively to the storm, your dog will follow suit. By staying calm and letting your dog stay close to you, perhaps distracting them by playing with them or brushing their coat, they will feel safer.
Speak matter-of-factly. It may be your natural instinct to speak in a sympathetic voice to calm your pet's nerves, but this tone will actually come across as praise for their behavior. Instead of reassuring your dog that everything is okay, they will interpret it as praise for their nervousness and will continue to act in such a manner. Speak in a matter-of-fact voice, as you would in any other normal situation.
Keep it closed. As fascinating as a thunderstorm is, fight your instincts to open the windows and doors to hear it louder and see the flashes of lightning. Instead, we recommend keeping windows and doors closed to muffle the sounds. Turn on a TV or radio to normal volume to distract your dog from what's happening outside.
Create a safe place. Whether your pet is kept inside or out, it's important to create a space for them where they feel safe. A properly introduced kennel or crate can be a calming refuge for them in times of fear or nervousness. Cover your dog's crate with a blanket to shield them from the bright flashes of lightning. As always, ensure you have proper identification on your dog at all times, a WaggTagg from Bark Busters, for example. A frightened dog will not hesitate to flee a backyard in search of what they feel is a safer location.
Medication. Consult with your veterinarian about whether or not your pet would be a good candidate for medication to calm anxiety and fears. There are many different types of medications that may help your pet in high-stress situations when all other options have failed. Additionally, similar to swaddling a baby, there are snug-fitting shirts and wraps made especially for calming anxious dogs.
Reconditioning. If you live in an area that is prone to summer thunderstorms and you know they are inevitable, you may want to consider reconditioning your pet by creating an artificial storm through environmental recordings. This is not a tactic we recommend trying yourself, however. Please reach out to us to find a local Bark Busters Trainer and Behavioral Therapist who can guide you on this path.
Summer thunderstorms can be incredibly stressful for dogs. We encourage you to implement some or all of the methods we have recommended in this post to try and ease your pet's fears and anxiety.
Have a plan in place, and we know you and your dog can successfully weather the storm!