Protecting Your Pets During Stormy Weather
STORMY weather can be unsettling enough for humans, but it can be terrifying for our four-legged friends.
Cats and dogs have much more acute hearing than humans and are highly sensitive to changes around them which causes them to seek shelter and security by hiding.
Loud thunderclaps, lightning flashes and atmospheric pressure changes all combine to cause great stress to our pets which can show itself in nervous behavior.
The best way to help your furry family member get through a heavy storm is preparation – some training can be done to reduce fear and anxiety. The best way to start this is always reward calm behavior, with petting and praise. This way your dog will be more receptive to your reinforcement of good behavior during a storm. Just like in us, training cannot eliminate fear but it can help us handle stressful situations in a better manner.
And during the storm, there are many ways to give your pet the security it needs until the weather passes.
Just like humans, our animals will look for a safe space by instinct, so create a warm, inviting, and comfortable one for them. If they have one already that they choose to relax or sleep in, make this their safe space. If you need to head to the basement for storm protection, take their favorite blankets, or bed or crate with you downstairs. Putting on background noise like a fan can also help as it can help obscure the storm sounds with a familiar one.
Have a treat or a new toy on hand to distract them during the storm and reward your pet for good behavior. If storms are a regular occurrence in your area, you can help train your pet to see a storm as linked to getting a treat.
If you have plenty of warning of the storm’s approach, take the opportunity to give them extra walks and exercise beforehand. This can help distract them from early warning signs in nature of the impending storm, give them quality time with you to calm them, and help tire them to reduce over-the-top behavior during the storm.
Weighted blankets have been shown anecdotally to help reduce stress and anxiety in pets – and humans – but this is one area to know your own pet. If they have a favorite shirt or blanket, make sure they have it to hand, or paw.
And stay calm yourself – your pet will be looking to you for protection and will feed off your emotions. Reassure your dog or cat with appropriate stroking and petting, showing you are calm. Do not punish your pet for bad behavior if it is frightened during a storm – it is a natural reaction, and a negative response may compound the problem in future storms as they link storms to punishment.