My childhood dog, VT (named for
With so much experience with anxiety associated with loud, I have developed a system that helped to lessen VT and now Milly’s nervousness.
First, do not wait until the storm arrives to address the anxiety. If you know bad weather is coming your way, start early. Milly responds very well to taking Bach’s Rescue Remedy before a stressful event (she is also terrified of vacuum cleaners, so we give her Rescue Remedy before our annual spring cleaning day too). You can also you’re your dog pure Chamomile Tea Leaves with a little bit of food – the Chamomile can relax them. Speak with your veterinarian before doing this, and test it ahead of time to ensure your dog reacts safely to it. Turn on the radio or TV. I like to use stations with people talking in soothing voices – HGTV or NPR are channels and stations where the voices in the background sooth Milly.
Next, turn on a floor fan to medium or high, and tilt it toward the floor of the room where your dog is (it doesn’t need to be directly on your dog, but you want it in the general direction of your dog). This creates white noise that will help drown out the thunder or fireworks. If your dog lies near the fan, the wind of the fan will feel good to the dog and the fan will create slight floor vibrations that will be relaxing for your dog. If you have a white noise sleep machine you can turn this on to drown out the thunder as well.
Because lightning is not nearly as scary or thrilling if you cannot see it, you’ll want to close all of the curtains in the room and turn on some lights.
Thunderstorms are not a safe time to be outside, especially for dogs with thunderstorm anxiety, who may run away out of fear if left outside. If you have a doggie door, close it and lock it before the storm.
Many dogs will head for their favorite safe place in the house when stressed about thunder or fireworks. Whether it is the bathroom, a closet, under a table, or your bedroom make it available to your dog. This is not the time to scold your dog for not going in the bathroom – if they feel safe there, let them be there (and bring the TV or radio, fan, and Rescue Remedy to their safe place). If your dog does not have “a safe place” you can create a den for them by draping a sheet or blanket across a table or chair to give them a place to hide. With VT we would place his dog bed under the table, and then drape the blanket over it for added comfort. Milly’s safe place is my bedroom, preferably with her head on my lap for added security.
When the storm or fireworks arrive you’ll notice your dog’s reactions. Some dogs, like Milly, will stick to you like glue, others will pace or bark or whimper.
Next, you’ll want to sit down. When the anxiety is setting in, it is a good time to stay in one place, and act unimpressed by the event (if you are also scared of thunderstorms, you should take some Bach’s Rescue Remedy yourself, so that you remain calm for your dog). You need to let your dog get a sense of calmness from you.
Tell your dog to “Settle Down,” but know that every hair on your dog’s body feels like things are not OK, and you won’t be able to convince him that they are. A confident, but not aggressive or mean, “Settle Down” will be reassuring for your dog. When anxiety is setting in this is not the time for baby talk or coddling your dog. That will make him/her feel even needier. Instead, a firm and confident tone of voice, a quick pat on the head or a brief scratch is better than baby talk and soft stroking.
If problems continue, please speak with your veterinarian about other alternatives and ways to address your dog’s thunderstorm or fireworks anxiety.