Many dogs get startled or anxious during thunderstorms or fireworks. Some dogs become very stressed and a few even work themselves up into a ‘panic attack’.
Watching for clues in body language can tell you how stressed your dog is during thunderstorms.
Signs of mild to moderate stress in these situations are:
yawning and shedding more than usual, licking lips a lot, shaking, drooling, panting, hyperactivity, hiding
Additional signs of severe stress or panic are:
vomiting, digging through doors or floor, or trying to escape without regard for injuries, self mutilation
Try this for mildnoise phobia:
Environmental management. The most helpful thing to do is take your dog away from the storm. Most dogs will feel much safer in a windowless room where they can’t see or hear the outside. Very few dogs fare better outside during a storm. If you don’t have a windowless room, try shutting out as much of the outside stimuli as you can. Close the blinds and curtains and turn on the lights. Play music (especially classical) or white noise to cover the sounds of the storm.
A stress wrap. Many dogs can be calmed by even pressure over a large part of their body – just like it has been reported to help autistic people with over stimulation. The easiest way to achieve this kind of pressure is the ‘Thundershirt’ ® which is sold at pet stores and over the internet. A snug fitting t-shirt may also help some dogs.
Through a Dog’s Ear. This is a wonderful series of CDs available online. These music CDs have been tested in shelter settings. They feature pieces of classical music rewritten to have a calming effect on dogs. They are very affordable, and pleasant to listen to.
A safe spot. If your dog tries to squeeze behind a couch or climbs into the bathtub – let him do it. Often dogs have spots that they usually wouldn’t go to, but for some reason make them feel better during a storm. As long as those places are safe – let your dog choose.
DAP (dog appeasing pheromone). DAP is available online or at the pet store. It is the synthesized version of the pheromone released by a nursing bitch and makes many adult dogs feel soothed and comforted in a subtle way. The plug-in diffuser and the spray are most recommended.
Homeopathic remedies. Available at the pet store or at the vet, many people swear by them but they may be lacking in research.
Distraction. Often it helps to take the dog’s mind off of the storm by giving him something elseto do. If your dog is willing to eat offer a toy stuffed with peanut butter or something similar.
You can also try reward based training sessions.
Anger, punishment, or any type of correction. These things cause stress and anxiety in the best of times and it should go without saying that they should be avoided.
Comforting. Although it seems very counter-intuitive and almost cruel, studies have shown that attempts to comfort anxious dogs can heighten the anxiety. (‘If my owner is stressed there has to be something wrong…’) If your dog does not calm down after your first attempt of offering comfort – let it go and act as if there is nothing wrong.
If your dog shows more severe anxiety and the measures above do not seem to help, please let us know. In most cases noise phobia can successfully be treated and controlled. It takes time, intensive counter conditioning, desensitization and often supportive medication.
We are happy to do our best to help you. Sometimes it becomes necessary, however, to refer more severe cases to a veterinarian who specializes in behavior.