January on the Sunshine Coast of BC is typically anything but sunny. Rain, more rain, wind, and storm weather—this is how January looks here! With January being one of our longest and most wintery months of the year, we can also receive extra storm weather. The wind and the rain, accompanied by hail and snow, can sometimes cause us to peek cautiously outdoors to see what is happening. For our dogs, these sounds of winter storms are magnified even more and seem that much scarier.
How to Calm Your Dog
When our pets are scared, we can feel anxious if we are not sure what to do. Here are some good ideas to help calm a storm-scared dog.
Create a Hiding Space
Sometimes hiding and waiting it out is your dog’s way to cope. Their instincts tell them to find a safe place and wait it out. You can assist your pet by making a cozy place out of a box or crate—perhaps under a table or a bed is best for your pet. Even better if the cozy area blocks as much of the light and sounds of the storm.
Keep Calm Yourself
Your dog will take their cues from you. Keep yourself calm and send reassuring vibes to your pet. Try not to hug and fuss over them too much, as this may send the wrong message. Aim to bolster your pet’s confidence by reassuring them that they are ok, that it is just a storm, and that they are safe with you. Allow them to learn that while storms sound scary—with you, they are safe!
Try to distract your dog from the storm outside with something fun inside. Grab a favourite toy and have some playtime and see if distracting your pet helps them to forget to be anxious or scared.
During times of good weather, while you and your pet are engaged in fun and positive behaviours—such as playtime, cuddle time, and treat time—play an audio of a storm on low volume. Begin with a few minutes only, and over a time of a few weeks or longer if your pet needs, gradually increase the volume to simulate a storm outside. It is good to note that the method works for noise, but your dog may still be sensitive to light flashes, barometric changes, and wind shudders outside.
If you have tried many different calming methods and your pet is still anxious during storms, you may want to consider speaking to your vet about medication options. There is a variety to choose from, and your vet will help you to decide which options are best.
The Pressures of the Barometric Pressure
When it comes to storms and anxiety for your pet, it is not always about the noises or flashing lights. Your dog is able to sense barometric pressure, this is the measurement of air pressure in the atmosphere.
Before a big storm, the barometric pressure drops, this can cause some dogs’ tissues to expand slightly, causing pressure on their body. While this is not a huge and drastic change, they will still feel different and can be in some discomfort mainly because they feel “different” all of a sudden, and they don’t know why.