Monsoons and your dog

help your dog during storm
It’s that time in Phoenix, when the monsoon storm clouds roll in and dogs sneak under beds to escape the booming sounds. Does your dog suffer during this rainy, noisy season?

Happy to report that in this house the Beagle is can hear a cheese bag rustle from three doors down but she seems tone deaf to thunder and lightening.

We asked Alexis Siler, clinical assistant professor, Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Midwestern University Companion Animal Clinic for her suggestions on helping dogs during monsoon season:

How can I calm my dog when it thunders outside during monsoons?

ThunderShirts can be helpful if your dog is fearful or anxious during storms. They hug your dog’s body to apply gentle pressure to hopefully make them feel more secure.

Often dogs will try to hide to avoid thunderstorms. If your dog seems anxious or restless, you may want to try providing a safe place for him to go. This secure space should be readily available, especially if nobody is home. You can also try closing doors and windows. Or you can use white noise or music to block out the sounds.

If your dog is food motivated, you can engage them in fun exercises like food puzzle toys, etc.

You might try playing recordings of thunderstorm sounds and pairing that with pleasant outcomes, such as treats or a new toy, to desensitize your dog to storms.

If your dog exhibits extreme or persistent anxiety, consult with your veterinarian since these animals may need rapidly-acting anti-anxiety medications.

Are there things I shouldn’t do during the monsoon?

It’s also important not to panic or show your dog your own anxiety to avoid making it worse for them.  Any change in your behavior (holding, cuddling, consoling, etc.) can easily condition a fear response and exacerbate the anxious behavior.

If your dog’s anxiety is minimal and recovers quickly, ignore the behavior so he may adapt to storms.

Why does my dog freak out during thunderstorms?

Fear of thunderstorms is a common concern. One thought is that loud noises from overhead are difficult for dogs to orient to, which makes them anxious.  Many dogs adjust to the sounds of a thunderstorm, but some are more sensitive and the fear can become worse with each exposure. The degree of anxiety a dog feels is based on the dog’s perception of the noise as a threat.

Are certain breeds more affected than others?

Thunderstorm phobias can occur in any breed, but some believe herding breeds and cross-breeds are at an increased risk.

Monsoons and your dog

dogs and arizona monsoons
The National Weather Service is predicting storms through Friday for Phoenix but of course, Dog Radar has already given you the heads up about this week’s monsoons.

Dogs can sense a storm better than a child can sense an ice-cream truck coming.

Why dogs can sense a monsoon

With their keen ears, dogs hear at much higher and lower frequencies than we do, so they can hear a faraway rumble of thunder. And their noses can detect the smell of lightning ionizing the air. Dogs are also super attuned to changes in barometric pressure, which indicate a storm is near.

So, your dog has street cred when it comes to weather prediction.

But what to do about a dog who freaks out at storms? It all focuses on keeping the dog safe and feeling safe during the storm.

Offer the dog a safe place from the storm

If you know a storm is a’brewing, take your pooch out to potty before the storm. That way you can have them safely corralled in the house before the first thunder clap hits.

Providing a secure space like a crate or a dark room can ease their anxiety. Covering a wire crate with a quilt will muffle thunder and lessen flashes of lightning. Also, drag out that old, noisy fan which can provide some additional white noise for the dog

Dogs also pick up fear from their people, so stay cool. Let your buddy stay close and try to distract him with play or treats. Do not use sympathetic voice – this can sound like praise and may increase his nervousness and confusion.

Or consider de-sensitizing poochie by recording the storm sounds and then playing it back once the storm has passed. Keep the volume real low at first and play it back during low-key times like when you are cooking dinner. Gradually increase the volume over time.

Some people opt for a step further and use “thundershirts” that use acupressure to calm the dog by hitting pressure points.

And as last resort, there’s doggie downers. The trick with them is that you have to give the sedative usually about one to two hours before the storm.

And when would that be? Ask the dog — he’s the weather guy!