With summer ahead, we can expect those afternoon and evening thunderstorms. Here are some tips on how to help your pet cope with thunderstorm anxiety
1. Watching our behavior during the storm: Constant petting or consoling is often interpreted by pets as a reward for the fearful response — or reinforcement that the fearful response is warranted. Conversely, punishment will only increase a panicked pet’s anxiety level. Our solution? Projecting a calm, cool vibe and giving your pet attention in the form of playing, grooming, or other activities they normally enjoy.
2. Using supportive therapies: Some products available include thunder shirts, Composure, and Adaptil.
3. Switching environments when thunder begins: Changing your pet’s location can be surprisingly effective, because it may help reduce the storm’s volume level or make your pet less aware of it.
4. Increasing your pet’s exercise beforehand: Walking or playing more before a scheduled storm is never a bad idea. This helps to tire your pet both mentally and physically. It can also boost natural serotonin levels, which then act as a natural calming aid.
5. Using counterconditioning during a thunderstorm: This involves your pet associating something negative, like the storm, with something positive. For instance, only using a certain toy or a special treat only during a thunderstorm.
6. Desensitization: This technique is most effective in the winter months when storms are not as common. To begin, simply play a CD or iPod mix of storm sounds at an extremely soft level. While your dog remains relaxed at this level, say a simple cue word like “chill” and provide a yummy treat every 15 seconds or so. Then, gradually extend the time your pet needs to remain relaxed before earning the treat.
We hope these suggestions were helpful for you and your pet during these summer storms!