- Kelley Post
Dogs and Thunder
Does your dog freak out during a thunderstorm? Do you find your dog cowering in fear under a bed or the back of a closet? This is not an unusual occurrence. Many dogs and other animals are extremely sensitive to the changes in the atmosphere and barometric pressure before and during a thunderstorm.
In fact, by the time you feel the first drop of rain, your dog already knows that there are some major changes in the feeling of the air around him. If he is the sensitive type, he is already stressing out, his anxiety is going up, his heart rate has probably increased, and panic is setting in. At this point, some dogs will start whining or crying, lowered tail, panting, clinging to humans, shivering, or shaking, and have involuntary urination. Some dogs will run, trying to get away from this feeling. During a storm, there can be a build up of static electricity in a dog’s fur, and the feeling to a dog would be like that of when we are wearing a wool sweater and we get a sudden shock when we touch metal.
Maggie and Chris Low from Ottawa know all to well what it is like to have a dog go through the traumatic process of dealing with a thunderstorm. Their current dog Savanah shows some signs of anxiety towards thunderstorms and loud noises, but it was their previous dog Kaiser that would bolt and hide under a bed trembling with fear. Maggie stated that she tried several approaches to calming Kaiser down, but the successful approach was the use of a “Thundershirt.” These items are like a tight body jacket that is made of special materials. The Thundershirt can be snugged up to mimic the feeling of a hug for the dog. A blanket or a towel wrapped tightly around the dog can also be used like the way one would swaddle a baby.
Maggie and Chris are retired from the military, both having served 30 years; Maggie as a Supply Technician Warrant Officer and Chris as an MP. Chris retired in 2006 and Maggie retired in 2011 The couples moved to Ottawa for Maggie’s last posting; they still reside in Ottawa. Maggie and Chris just celebrated their 25 Wedding Anniversary on July 25th.
Miniature Pinschers are the breed of dogs that Maggie and Chris adore. Their previous Min Pin, Kaiser, passed away April 26/21. Savanah had come to live with the couple on July 5, 2019, and she came from a pet shelter in Ottawa called the “Minpinery”. It took Savanah awhile to get comfortable but when she realized that she now had her very own humans, Savanah quickly latched onto Chris as her alpha male and follows him everywhere. Maggie shared that Savanah is the most walked dog. Their walking schedule includes the following times: 7:30, 11:30, 3:00, 5:30 and 10:00 for a total of 5 kms a day. The couple also spend time camping in their 5th Wheel camper where Savanah enjoys her sling-back seat. Savanah likes to socialize with small quiet dogs including her friend Tipoo, a chihuahua. One of Savanah’s favorite activity is going for ice cream.
Tips to Help Your Dog Weather A Storm
• Remain calm yourself. If your dog senses that you are scared, it will intensify any fears and anxiety that the dog already has.
• Provide a safe place for your dog. Don’t leave them outside. If they have a kennel, put them in with a favorite toy or treat and leave the door open so they don’t feel trapped. If they don’t have a kennel, then use a small room with a comfortable place for them to lay down.
• Distract the dog with other sounds like soft music or white noise to drown out the sound of the storm.
• Give a calming massage. Gently stroke the dog’s back and thighs, rub their forehead, ears, and neck.
• Give your dog a chew such as a Yak stick or bully stick to distract him from the storm.
• If this is an ongoing problem with your dog, try desensitising him by playing storm sounds on days when there are no storms, starting at a lower volume and increasing over time.
• If the dog’s anxiety symptoms are getting worse, call a veterinarian to help determine the next step to helping your dog. The vet may recommend other ways to desensitize and behavior modification regarding storms. The vet may also prescribe anti-anxiety medication for your dog.
When you understand what your dog is going through and can recognize the signs of anxiety, then you are much better equipped to help your dog get through the storm.
If you have an idea for a Pet Post story or know of someone in our Military Family with a pet that we should profile, please contact Kelley Post at firstname.lastname@example.org.