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Dogs and Thunder

Dogs and Thunder

 

A storm is not a dog’s best friend. Whether you have a dog or not, you would know this – the howling of neighbourhood dogs says it all. But do you know why?

We know they react to the sounds of the thunder, heavy rain and strong winds; they hide away from the sight of lightening illuminating the sky. These things we can observe, but there is more to it. In fact, it all starts with their sense of smell, well before these observable behaviours.

What behaviours do we commonly see?

·         Trembling

·         Heavy panting

·         Lip licking

·         Pacing

·         Wide eyes

·         Destruction

·         Vocalisation (howling, barking, chattering)

·         Hiding

·         Running away

 

What causes them?

Dogs have up to 400 million olfactory (smelling) receptor cells, about 8 times the amount we have. These cells give them the ability to detect changes in barometric pressure. Not only can their brilliant sense of smell sense an oncoming storm, but also, their ears can pick up the vibrations in the air long before we hear the thunder.

So, what is barometric pressure?

Barometric pressure measures the weight of the earth’s atmosphere. When pressure increases, air molecules are compressed which leads to changes in air pressure, wind speed and temperature. Our dogs can detect these changes in pressure hours before once the actual storm hits.

 

How do you stop your dog from freaking out during storms?

During the storm – If you punish or soothe your dog in the midst of a storm, it will not work. Your best chance is to try and distract them, so they learn to ignore it, not fear it. You can also try putting a sheet in the dryer and then wiping it on your dog’s coat to help reduce the static electricity on their coat that builds up during a storm.[1]

Before the storm – You’re much more likely to help your dog through a storm if you prepare in advance.

  • Check the weather for the week and if you see that there’s to be a possible storm, note the day and expected time.
  • Prepare the environment roughly 1 -3 hours in advance by: closing the windows and doors to block out any additional sounds, setting up their bed in a safe spot in the centre of your home away from windows, and putting on some music to muffle outdoor sounds such as thunder.
  • Prepare a range of distractions and calming resources for your dog, such as: a thundershirt if you have one, an Adaptil diffuser and some enrichment or toys your dog loves.

The list certainly does go on. And while these suggestions might make storms more comfortable for your dog (and you!) it won’t cure their phobia. This is where seeking professional can help to guarantee more of a concrete solution.

For help on storm phobia or any other behavioural issues, contact Emilia from Ethical Dog Services on

0403 433 399 or click the Contact Us page.

 

Written by

Jacqui Bowden 11/03/22

 

References

[1] Becker, M. (2011). Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual

https://avsab.org/addressing-fear-of-thunderstorms-with-systematic-desensitization/

https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/atmospheric/barometer.htm

https://www.adaptil.com/au/Products/ADAPTIL-Calm-Home-Diffuser 

https://thundershirt.com/

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