You hear the crack of thunder in the distance and you cringe, knowing what follows next – a dog who is so afraid of the thunder that you struggle to keep him under control. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can help your dog through the storm, making life easier for both of you.
There are various types of therapy you can try to help your dog – TTouch is one of these. Consult your vet way in advance for recommendations that will work with your dog. In the case of a thunderstorm approaching fast with no time to consult a vet or have a therapy session, there are a few things that you can do to calm your pet down.
In many cases it helps if the owner of the dog is relaxed around him. One of the things you can do is sing or laugh, or at least talk to your dog in a calm and soothing voice. This will calm you down and in turn will help to calm your pet down. Stay with your dog during the storm and try to distract him.
White noise such as soft background music, especially classical music, or a TV will also help to calm down your dog. But don’t only play that particular type of music when there is a storm, otherwise your dog might associate the music with storms.
Long before a storm approaches, it is a good idea to create a space for your dog where he can be safe. The dog should embrace the space by himself, and not be afraid of it at all. Make it an area where he will be comfortable, with one of your own items of clothing or a blanket from which he will be able to pick up your scent. Your scent will help him to feel safer.
An idea for a safe place is in a bathroom (except when the sound of lightning is worse in the bathroom), in a cupboard, under a bed, behind a chair or in a crate.
A chew toy to keep him busy in his safe space is another good idea. This will distract him and make the area even more appealing. Chewing can lessen the anxiety that the dog experiences.
Training exercises to mentally stimulate your dog are an ideal way to calm him down. If the weather forecast predicts thunderstorms later on in the day, take your dog out for a walk or do some training exercises, but do make sure that you are inside the house before the storm approaches. You don’t want to be caught outside in a storm.
Exercise increases the level of serotonin, which is a brain chemical that performs many functions, including the regulation of mood.
If your dog is used to a specific activity at about the same time of day, every day, he will look forward to the activity and may be distracted from the thunderstorm, while engaging in acceptable behaviour. When there is no storm around, get into a daily pattern of playing with the dog at the approximate time a storm normally occurs. Games that can be played inside include throwing a soft ball up and down the passage and a game of pullies or something similar.
A bitch secretes pheromones to comfort and reassure her puppies, and they have the same effect on adult dogs. Therefore it makes sense to use either a DAP diffuser or behaviour pheromone collar. There are different products to choose from, making life much easier.
Long before a storm approaches, and especially if you know that your dog is afraid of thunder, it makes sense to consult a veterinarian. A vet will be able to recommend the ideal medication or natural remedy that will work best for your specific dog. Always follow your vet’s dosage instructions and never overmedicate your pet.