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Help your dog become thunder-safe

scared dogThunderstorms can be very scary for dogs and the two storms experienced in Hastings this week have certainly sent some of our canine residents into a spin.

Hastings District Council’s animal control manager Lisa Hudson said Council had helped return seven dogs to their anxious owners after the storms on Tuesday and Thursday. They had also taken phone calls and had visits from owners looking for dogs – and social media was running rife with concerned owners looking for their pets.

Many dogs do react badly to storms, said Ms Hudson.

“It is suspected dogs are upset by some combination of wind, thunder, lightning, barometric pressure changes, static electricity, and low-frequency rumbles preceding a storm that humans can't hear.”

She has a number of suggestions for helping dogs cope with the situation.

  • Reward calm behaviour year round. Often we inadvertently reward the behaviour we don’t want in an attempt to console an anxious animal. Patting a dog that is whimpering or climbing on you may make sense from a human perspective, but it just encourages the panicky behaviour. Patting and rewarding a dog when it is behaving calmly is best.
  • Put the dog in a safe place like a crate or, even better, in a basement or internal room from where the dog can’t see or hear what is happening outside. A radio or television playing loudly provides some distraction.
  • Products called a ‘thunder shirt’ which can be put onto the dog, works similarly to swaddling a baby. It can provide relief from anxiety caused by thunder and may also work to ease separation anxiety, travel anxiety and reactions to loud noises.
  • Desensitise your dog to storm sounds by playing recordings of thunder at a low level and then slowly increasing the volume. A google search of ‘sound of thunder’ will give you YouTube video options.
  • Anti-anxiety medication can be an option in severe cases and your veterinarian can advise. Alternatively, natural remedies such as Rescue Remedy can be good for shock and terror, or a herbal formula called Pet Calm may provide some relief.


1 December 2017

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