Hi everyone and happy Labour day!
The weatherman says storms are approaching, and to be honest, even if he hadn’t said as much, we would know this morning by the behaviour of the dogs!
When the barometric pressure is high, the dogs react behaviourally, quite dramatically at times, and so if your dog is doing things today that are a little out of character, don’t be alarmed.
A couple of months ago, I posted a few tips on what to do in the event of storms and some of you emailed me and asked if I could reiterate these things when we next have a storm brewing…happy to oblige.
Here at the Desperate Dogs Ranch, we often get boarders that are thunder phobic, and our main goal is to minimise the effects of the storm on each dog, as we obviously have many guests and fear, like many emotions, is contagious. While its completely natural for a dog to have some fear of a storm as there are sights and sounds and feelings that the dog can’t quantify, an off the dial reaction is not natural, and thats what we seek to minimise.
First of all, if you have a multiple dog pack, always put your calm dogs to work by partnering them with the thunder phobic dog. Just as fear is contagious, so is calm in certain cases, and a fearful dog can get a lot from watching a dog who doesnt give a flying fig about thunder. There is always a sense of ‘Well, if he’s not seeming too worried about it, why should I….?’
Levi and Ava, canine employees here at the ranch, are our thunder phobia dogs, and I have no doubt today that they will be working their little heinies off sitting on couches, sleeping it off, in the midst of a few fearful dogs who’ll hopefully catch on that if the team leader ain’t concerned, well, theres not much to worry about!
As many of you know, we cook fresh food for the dogs every day, but on thundery days we always give a separate meal of sweet potato, drizzled with a little honey at least an hour before the storm starts. Today, I ll be doing that around mid afternoon depending on the timing of its arrival.
While many of you may believe that dogs do not need carbs, scientific evidence suggests that a separate carb meal can ward off stress, increasing the level of serotonin through the brain, and thus promoting calm….in the same way that Prozac does! Brown rice or a bowl of barley will also work well, but in my experience, sweet potatoes work best as dogs love ’em and theyre low on the glycaemic Index. Dogs that operate on an increased level of stress generally, may benefit from brown rice more as its packed with B complex vitamins, a great aid for stress in dogs.
Take your dog out for a great run well before the storm hits, nothing, but NOTHING reduces stress like exercise. In my behavioural consultancy, almost every dog that comes to me with thunder phobic issues has an owner that does not walk their dog…all of the tips and tricks I give you, all the thunder shirts you can buy, will not make up for this one important factor. Allow the dog to smell the storm and let the dogs nose and brain figure out what’s coming..understanding something is key to not being afraid of it, even to dogs. Remember the lessons we humans learned from dogs in the Indian Ocean Tsunami…the dogs who were roaming SENSED the tsunami coming and made it to the hills well before the waves hit. Animals know……
Allow your dog to figure out where shes most comfortable; its likely that your dog will attempt to get to a water source like a shower stall or bathtub….let them! The grounding of the water source can help reduce static build up and your dog clearly knows what its looking for, so bow to their greater knowledge.
For this same reason, dryer sheets can help when the pressure is high and static build up is going on….rub your dog all over with one, but please remember that some brands carry quite toxic chemicals so read the label and if its not animal safe, dont use it. There are Eco friendly non toxic brands out there, use them.
Use a thunder shirt or a tight t shirt on your dog to give them restriction, which increases comfort. Contrary to what you may think, the very last thing your dog wants or needs during a thunder storm is YOUR arms around it! Humans anthropomorphise everything and think we can fix everything with a hug and a soft word…dogs dont operate like that. When they are stressed, they like bodily restriction almost as an armour against the world, but they dont like it combined with human energy transference. Humans cant help but get stressed when their dog is panicking, and so any physical contact you have with your dog in an attempt to calm it down is going to backfire on you and the dog. Take a cool, calm, hands off approach, and if youre tempted to coo at the dog ‘Its okay sugar, dont worry, its okay, its going to be fine, really its going to be fine…’ your dog is not going to buy what youre selling!
The dog will be like ‘Well, I wasnt so worried about it, but now she cant stop talking about it, I guess I should be scared to death!’
Distract with soft music, a game or two where you are the leader figure and its fairly low key [‘find it’ games in a restricted area with great treats are always good], you sitting quietly watching a calm show on the TV or reading a book as if nothing is happening works a treat, as does going about your normal routine, doing everything you would normally do with a calm smile on your face and a little song on your lips.
We have many ways of helping thunder phobic dogs here at Desperate Dogs, but these are just a few I wanted to share with you generally in the hope that these storms that we are supposed to get will not ruin your labour day weekend, or your dogs, for that matter!