As the Met Office releases yet another storm warning for areas of the UK, pet owners might find themselves with worried or anxious dogs as the storms roll in. Not only is this stressful for the dogs, but also for their owners.
Thankfully, vet Dr Linda Simon at pet wellness brand Pooch & Mutt, shares her top tips for keeping dogs calm in a storm.
- Tire them out before the storm begins
Getting your dog sleepy before the storm begins will help to get them into a calm state of mind before the storm begins. Keep an eye on the weather forecast to get an idea of when the storm is due to start and take your dog on a long, interesting walk beforehand, have them socialise with other dogs and even practise some training. Both the mental and physical stimulation should tire them out enough to help them sleep through most of, if not all of the storm.
2. Lead by example and stay calm yourself
When the storm starts, be cautious not to act unsettled yourself. We often forget that dogs can quickly pick up on our body language and stress levels, which may in turn upset them if they sense that you are anxious. Act calm in a storm; stay confident and try not to fuss them too much, as this can cause them to feel stressed.
3. Create a safe haven away from windows
Feeling safe is really important to dogs, especially in times of fear. Creating a safe haven for them will give them somewhere to retreat to, to feel safe and secure. This could be anywhere in your home, but ideally away from any windows where they are likely to hear the thunder more or see the lightning. Make up a cosy bed with a pillow, throws and blankets for them to snuggle into or even hide under.
For more anxious dogs, this ‘safe haven’ might need to be a little closer to your bed so they have that extra added security of knowing you are close by.
4. Offer a distraction
Distraction is a great way to take your dog’s mind off the big scary storm outside and avert their focus to something more enjoyable. Offering your dog a nice chew that will take them some time to get through, or a filled Kong will keep their attention away from the storm and help them to feel calmer as they settle down for the night.
5. Play some background sounds
Background sounds are another great way to distract your dog from the loud and sudden crashes of thunder. Whether it be the TV, radio or even playing a dog-friendly calming playlist, these sounds should mask or at least diminish the volume of the thunder, increasing their comfort and reducing their anxiety and stress levels.
6. Invest in some blackout blinds or curtains…
Depending on the size of the storm, lightning can be really bright, often lighting up the whole room. These sudden and unexpected flashes of light can be just as scary as the loud bangs of thunder to your pooch. I would recommend investing in some blackout blinds or curtains in a bid to keep the lightning flashes out and your dog calm.
Not only are blackout blinds great for keeping the lightning out, but they will also help your dog to sleep better. Dogs’ circadian rhythms are influenced by light, so it is much easier for them to sleep in a dark room!
- …Or leave a light on
If investing in blackout blinds or curtains isn’t an option, another way to reduce the impact of the lightning flashes is to turn a side light on. Leaving a light on will make the flashes of lightning seem far less bright and obvious, which should hopefully ease your dog’s stress levels and keep them calm in a storm.