How to Improve Your Dog’s Storm Anxiety
The lights flicker as a loud “BOOM” echoes through the air. You’re settling in for a cozy movie or a hot cup of coffee, content to listen to the storm outside—but your dog isn’t joining you in her usual spot on the couch. You find her cowering in the laundry room, terrified of the thunder. If this scene sounds familiar, your furry friend is dealing with storm anxiety.
To you, a thunderstorm may provide a soothing background soundtrack to read by, but to some dogs, those loud cracks of thunder represent an unknown threat. When summer arrives, we tend to think of long days in the sun, but with those long, sunny days comes the dark and tumultuous storms that characterize the season for most of the U.S. Whether you live in Montana or Mississippi, your hometown will most likely be visited by thunderstorms at some point during the season and throughout the year. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to lessen your canine companion’s storm anxiety, such as administering a quality CBD supplement. If your dog doesn’t like storms, then the below tips are for you.
What Makes Dogs Afraid of Thunderstorms?
In dogs, a fear of thunderstorms is often referred to as storm anxiety or noise phobia. There is still debate among dog lovers and veterinarians alike as to what it is that triggers dogs during thunderstorms. Some theories include parts of storms such as the wind, thunder, or lightning, whereas others predict that it is the lesser-seen stressors such as barometric pressure changes or low-frequency rumbles that prompt dogs to engage in fearful behavior. Some veterinarians even theorize that the buildup of static electricity in the air before a storm can shock dogs. Researchers have also found that herding breeds in particular may be predisposed to storm anxiety. And like our military veterans, such sounds can trigger a variety of PTSD symptoms, causing severe distress.
Signs of Storm Anxiety in Dogs
Storm anxiety can arise unexpectedly, even in mature dogs, but it’s at least fairly easy to detect in canines.
Keep an eye out for these signs of noise phobia or storm anxiety in dogs:
- Pacing or catatonia
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heartbeat
- Cowering or trembling
- Howling or other excessive vocalizing
- Attempting to escape or hide
- Destructive behaviors
Effects of Storm Anxiety
Rest assured that you are not the only pet parent whose dog is struggling with this fear. Thousands of dogs experience mild to crippling fear during thunderstorms.
Typically, a noise phobia is not something that a dog will just grow out of, and if left unchecked, you dog’s storm anxiety can result in serious side effects. In some cases, dogs will run and hide under a bed when a storm approaches. In other more extreme cases, owners have reported their dogs chewing through drywall to reach their safe spot if they are left alone when a storm hits. Some dog’s anxiety can become so severe during storms that they suffer panic attacks. If left unchecked or unintentionally reinforced, storm anxiety may eventually lead to chronic effects like a weakened immune system and a higher risk of infection in dogs.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop severe weather from coming. But if you’re wondering how to calm a dog during a storm, we’ve got you covered. There are several effective techniques to try when working with your dog to manage his noise phobia. Here are a few helpful tips for keeping your canine calm the next time a storm rolls through your neck of the woods.
4 Ways to Ease Storm Anxiety in Dogs
1. Start Rewarding Early
Quite a few pet parents make the mistake of only attempting to correct storm anxiety when a storm is happening. Instead of trying to reason with your dog while his mind is gripped by fear, start by rewarding calm behavior year-round. Try teaching your dog the command “settle,” which can either include having your dog go to a mat and laying down or having your dog lay at your feet. With plenty of praise and other positive reinforcement like treats, your dog will get the idea. Once your dog gets the command down, you can try it out during a thunderstorm. Ideally, the routine of the command will make your pup feel safer and understand that it’s time to calm down, even when there’s a frightening storm overhead.
Some pet parents have found success with this practice while using a special “settle” item such as a leash, bandana, or vest. For this method, only practice the settle command while your dog is wearing your selected item. This tells the dog that when that item comes out, it’s time to settle.
2. Make a Safe Haven
Often, when dogs are feeling frightened during a storm, they will either run around frantically or will try to climb all over you. Cut this behavior short by providing your dog with a safe spot made just for her. This spot can be anywhere that is at least semi-enclosed. Ideal locations could include in a crate, under a desk, or in a bathroom. If your dog already has a location that she runs to when the weather starts to turn ugly, then encourage the use of that space as your pet’s safe spot. Remember that the space should only be semi-enclosed—you want your dog to be able to come and go freely, as a sense of confinement can often worsen storm anxiety.
When preparing this spot, add a soft blanket, some of your dog’s favorite toys, and a water bowl to turn it into the ultimate storm-time getaway. Add some soft music and diffuse pet-centric essential oils. The hope is that this area will provide a space in which your dog can feel protected during storms. But if you notice her still exhibiting severe signs of anxiety while in this spot, you may need to combine this technique with another.
3. Functional Accessories
For some dogs, a snug-fitting garment can drastically reduce their storm anxiety. You’ve probably heard of such products as the Thundershirt; these types of jackets provide targeted pressure along your dog’s body that may allow for your pet to feel more secure and at ease during a storm. The act of having a dog wear a snug-fitting garment is often compared to the act of swaddling a baby—both acts work to calm and reassure the wearer that everything is alright.
Try to have your pet wear its snug accessory a few times when there isn’t a storm present. This will help him get used to the act of putting it on and the sensation of wearing it. Having your dog only wear his Thundershirt or similar product while it is storming may lead to him associating the product with thunderstorms as opposed to calmness. Again, you can use treats and praise to help him get used to the idea of wearing this strange contraption.
4. Canna Companion Cannabis
Animals, like humans, can benefit from the use of cannabis. But while marijuana can be beneficial for humans, it’s not ideal for pets. That’s why Canna Companion has created high-quality hemp supplements that can help your dog cope with her storm anxiety and other situational stressors.
Canna Companion hemp supplements will not make your dog “high.” Dogs can receive a wide range of benefits from the low-level intake of hemp. Cannabis helps support a normally functioning cannabis receptor system which kicks into gear during storm-related anxieties. By administering hemp during this time, the receptor system has more “ingredients” with which to counter that anxiety.
When creating hemp supplements, Canna Companion uses specific parts of the hemp plant, namely the mature stalks and seeds, rather than relying solely on the flower of the cannabis plant. In addition, when multiple hemp compounds are utilized, e.g. CBD, THC, terpenes, flavonoids, etc., an increase in health benefits and a decrease in adverse effects are observed. Hemp supplements are fully legal and could be just what your pup needs to overcome his storm anxiety.
Make Your Pet Feel Safe During a Storm
Whether you decide to teach your dog to “settle,” make her a safe spot, wrap her in a snug garment, or ease anxiety and promote a calm demeanor with cannabis supplements, rest assured that you now have some actionable techniques for helping your pup.
Remember that you will not be able to correct your dog’s anxiety overnight. You may have to try different combinations of these tactics until you find the right formula that works best for your pet. Each dog is different and will react to storms and your suggested coping mechanism differently.
At Canna Companion, we’re passionate about pet health and dedicated to providing the education pet parents need to support their four-legged friends. Our high-quality hemp supplements and CBD oil for dogs can help your pup remain calm in stressful situations, as well as provide a whole host of other benefits.
Don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have questions about the benefits of CBD for pets. We’re also happy to schedule a complimentary consultation with a licensed veterinary professional who can address questions and concerns about your furry friend’s unique needs. We wish you the best of luck in your journey to overcome your dog’s storm anxiety!