El Niño has finally arrived in Southern California. This month was filled with rain, thunderstorms, and tornado watches. This stormy season is expected to last well into March, so we have some time before the weather calms down. As you know, most of our dogs fear the howling winds, plummeting barometric pressures, and of course, the loud rumbling of thunder. Many times, we try to comfort our dogs with no avail. Dogs can not only damage your home when they’re scared, but can injure themselves. Here are some ways in which you can help comfort your dog during a thunderstorm.
1. START YOUNG
Just because your dogs doesn’t take any drastic measures when they are afraid, doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. It’s best to act when your dogs are young, or when they experience their first thunderstorm. “Storm phobia” is considered a progressive disease and can worsen with time.
2. COMFORT YOUR DOG WITH TREATS AND CUDDLES
Start when your pup is young. When there is excessively loud thunder, cuddle you dog and give him or her treats. Associating thunder with cuddles and love will help fight storm phobia.
3. LET THEM HIDE IN THEIR CRATE
Make their crate into a cave by covering it with towels or blankets. Hiding in a cavelike structure will ease the dog’s fear, giving them a sense of safety. Crate training them as a puppy will help them when they are older. Their crate becomes a safe place for them, helping them psychologically. Even if you didn’t crate train them as a puppy, it’s never too late to give it a try.
4. MASK THE NOISE
The loud noise is what is scaring your dog. You should put them in a room that is centrally located away from the outside. A big closet or a bathroom works perfectly. Also, mask the noise with music or a noise machine. Anything that will distract the dogs from the thunder will help.
5. DESENSITIZE THEM
You can desensitize your dog to thunder by playing thunder sound CDs or MP3s. Start off at a low volume so your dog can get use to the sound. Comfort them throughout the process with pets and affirmation. Slowly increase the volume as you’re comforting him.
6. ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN ABOUT DRUGS
It’s best to keep your dog off drugs, but if he’s having a hard time with the weather, it’s better to have relaxants than stress. All dogs are different and some may never feel comfortable during a thunderstorm. Your vet will know which drugs are best to help your dog relax during the next storm.
7. NATURAL THERAPIES
If you’re not comfortable giving your dogs drugs try a more natural approach. You can start by giving your dog chamomile tea. To get your dog to drink the tea, place a piece of meat in their bowl and pour the tea over the top. Your dog will then drink the tea to get to the meat, but be careful the tea is not too hot. You can also try lavender oil, bach flower extract (Rescue Remedy) or dog appeasing pheromones.