It's summer, which means it's thunderstorm season in New York, which brought storm anxiety in dogs top of mind. But, it's probably safe to say that every part of the country has their seasons where storms seem to surge and dogs seem to panic. If your dog panics during a storm - whether that's running for the bathtub or howling or running in circles - don't worry. There's a good reason why dogs have storm anxiety and what you can do about it.
Why does my dog experience storm anxiety?
The main reason dogs experience storm anxiety is because of their heightened senses. We know that dogs lead with their noses and their ears and have a much better sense of smell and sense of hearing than humans do - it's why your dog can hear things you'd never discern. What that means on the other end though, is that they have an ultra sensitivity. When storms hit, their entire body feels it. They feel static energy on their fur. They can smell the rain from miles away. Any sounds from the thunder to gusting wind feel really intense. When your dog jumps into the bathtub during a storm, he's actually looking for a safe space away from static charges. While it's just a storm to us, it's a full body experience for them.
What behaviors should I watch out for to know if my dog has storm anxiety?
Here are the main behaviors to watch out for during a storm:
- Lowered ears and tail, wide eyes
- Panting and drooling
- Whining or howling
- Going to the bathroom indoors
- Destructive behavior or even self-harm (chewing their paws, etc.)
- Running for a safe space like a bathtub
So my dog has storm anxiety. What can I do about it to help him?
Give your dog a safe spot in the house - We've talked about the importance of your dog having a safe space in the house to treat more generalized anxiety, but creating a safe spot in the house for your dog can help out during storm anxiety as well. Make it a cozy spot that's all theirs with their favorite blankets and toys, somewhere far from a window, so that they know if they're wrapped up in that area, they're safe.
Use storm treats for training - If you notice that your dog starts to panic as a storm approaches, divert his attention elsewhere using treat training. Pick a good, high value treat that is only used for these purposes and dish them out liberally during a storm, so that your dog begins to associate storms with this amazing treat. It serves as a distraction and as comfort food.
Stay calm yourself - If you see your dog getting anxious during a storm, the best thing you can do is to remain calm yourself. It won't completely relax him, but as long as your energy remains stable, he'll start to learn that it's not a big deal and that you have his back.
Using calming products / anxiety medicine - If you're open to it, incorporating things like CBD tinctures when a storm is approaching is an easy and effective way to calm your dog for those one-off events. If his or her anxiety is really bad and you're feeling like you're about to lose it, it might be worth talking to your vet about anti-anxiety meds for these situations.