Written by Anna Hollisey
Have you ever been caught in a storm during a dog-walk? Wild winds and booming thunder can be frightening – and not just for our dogs! If summer brings more storms to your region, it’s time to check out our advice about helping your dog to stay calm in a storm.
Most dogs are sensitive to loud noises, ranging from the slam of a door to the bang of a firework. It’s normal – after all, their ancestors lived in the wild, where loud noises could bring danger.
Do you have a dog who seems to be able to detect an oncoming storm BEFORE it arrives? There’s a scientific explanation for that…
In the hours before a storm, air pressure drops, and the sky grows darker. Then there’s static buildup, which can give our furry friends an electric shock. In other words, our dogs might start getting the heebie-jeebies before the storm even begins (especially if they’ve experienced it before). In Penn State University, researcher Nancy Dreschel measured the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in dogs’ saliva and found that it increased during and after a storm.
We can’t ask them... but if we could, we think dogs would tell us that they don’t like the sensation of rain or hail. Even some water-loving dogs dislike the relentless onset of cold rain: it’s unwanted, and it’s unpleasant. And then there’s the way they’re shut in the kitchen when they get in – because they’re too soggy for the nice, cozy couch!
Some experts think that dogs dislike the sound of rain and wind. Amplified by at least 10 times, beating rain (especially on a glass roof or skylight) must sound particularly aggressive.
There’s always the possibility of previous trauma, too. For example, did your dog get scolded last time they trotted through the house with muddy-puddle-paws? Or locked outside during a storm? Our dogs remember traumatic events and develop fear responses which can be hard to change.
If you want to monitor your dog for fear during a storm, watch out for these symptoms – some are quite subtle.
In her study, Nancy Dreschel discovered that owners couldn’t calm their dogs much during storm conditions. But the presence of canine companions, she said, helped dogs to stay calm.
However, bringing home a new dog to help your dog cope with loud thunder seems extreme… so try some of these tips first!
Think about getting bad-weather-ready with dog boots. Ahead of winter, get our top tips for safe winter walking. Get prepped for emergencies like fire, flood or hurricanes – make your dog their own emergency kit.