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Dogs and Storms - Tips to help your dog cope

Dogs (and sometimes cats too) can be scared of stormy weather due to a combination of factors that may trigger anxiety and fear responses

Thunderclaps produce loud and sudden noises that can startle dogs, as their hearing is more sensitive than humans', making the thunder sound much louder to them. Dogs can sense changes in barometric pressure, which often occur before a storm. These pressure changes can cause discomfort or unease in some dogs, leading to anxiety. The build-up of static electricity in the air during storms can create a tingling sensation in a dog's fur, which may be unsettling or uncomfortable for them. A previous traumatic experience during a storm, such as being left outside during a severe storm or experiencing a lightning strike nearby, can lead to lasting fear and anxiety related to stormy weather. Some dogs may have an instinctual fear response to loud noises and environmental changes, as they perceive them as potential threats or dangers. Dogs that have not been exposed to stormy weather or thunderstorms during their critical socialisation period as puppies may be more likely to develop fear and anxiety towards these events.

Understanding the reasons behind a dog's fear of stormy weather can help dog guardians implement appropriate strategies and interventions to help their dogs cope with and manage their anxiety during storms.

Below we've listed some coping mechanisms you can do with your dog to help alleviate some of the anxiety and worries that a dog may have when a storm is approaching and also during a storm. The biggest bit of advice is to remain calm and uplifting, your dog will feed from your behaviour. If you are fearful and worrying this will only make your dog worry more. Stay positive.

Create a Safe Space: Set up a designated safe and comfortable area for your dog to retreat to during storms, such as a cosy sofa or a quiet room. Make it inviting with familiar bedding and favourite toys.

Stay Calm and Reassuring: Remain calm and composed during storms to help reassure your dog. Your calm demeanour can help alleviate their anxiety and fear.

Distract with Play: Engage your dog in interactive play or training exercises to divert their attention away from the storm and help them focus on something positive.

Background Noise: Play calming background noises, such as soft music or white noise, to mask the sound of thunder and lightning. Some dogs find this soothing and it lessens their anxiety.

Avoid Punishment: Never punish or scold your dog for displaying fearful behaviours during storms. This can increase their stress and anxiety. Instead, offer comfort and reassurance.

Consult a Dog Behaviourist (yes, you guessed it, we're here to help on this too): If your dog's fear of storms is severe, consult your trainer or behaviourist. They may recommend modification techniques or other interventions to help manage their anxiety.

Prepare in Advance: Be proactive by desensitising your dog to storm sounds using recordings or sound effects. Gradually expose them to these sounds at a low volume while engaging in positive activities to help them associate storms with calmness and rewards.

By implementing these tips, you can help your dog feel more secure and less fearful during stormy weather, ensuring their well-being and comfort.

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