Thunder rolls in the distance as I type this. Pip has crated herself; it is her sanctuary. If the storm gets closer, she will leave her haven to come over to seek solace curled against me. She’ll sleep relatively calmly, just glancing up at me during massive booms to make sure all is well. She has a mild case of storm stress.
The late great Caras had a bigger problem. He shook nonstop and sought high ground—on me. I would wake up with a 56-pound Australian Shepherd on my head. Literally. Panting rapidly, wild eyed, terrified. It’s heart breaking as well as sleep depriving for all.
Storm phobic dogs can be hard to live with and hard to deal with. There is no complete answer that I am aware of. However, certain things do help some dogs. “Help” is rarely cure. Help means they can cope better with their fear. Here are things worth trying:
Thundershirts for Dogs Many years ago, Linda Tellington Jones noticed that deep, steady pressure calmed horses and dogs. More recently, Temple Grandin made the same case for such pressure being calming for people, as well. Thundershirts are based on this effect and, given the name, these are clearly made to be helpful to storm-phobic dogs. They are guaranteed by the company and are well worth a try, IMO.
MelatoninMelatonin helped Caras a great deal. It took just enough of the edge off that he could copes without trying to seek high ground on me. I used both tablets and liquid as the liquid is faster acting. It calms but does not sedate. Be sure to buy products that are only melatonin or are made for dogs and always run such things past your veterinarian.
Published dosages are generally:
1 mg for dogs under 10 pounds,
1.5 mgs for dogs 10-25 pounds
3 mgs for dogs weighing 25-100 pounds
Up to 6 mgs for over 100 pounds but start with 3 mgs and go up if needed.
Thunderstorm Sounds Playing a Storm DVD very quietly during your dog’s meal and play times can help your dog link those sounds with nice things rather than with fear. This is a slow process. When done well, it will seem like you are doing nothing at all as your dog will show no signs of even being aware of it. Perfect! Over a period of weeks or months, increase the volume a tiny bit at a time until, eventually, it is quite loud. This may or may not help your dog during an actual storm but it is easy to do and might help so, why not?
D.A.P. Reader Susan Wojcik reminded me about D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) which comes in a spray as well as a collar or a diffuser. Some dogs are noticeably calmed with this product so it’s worth a try.
I hope some combination of these things—thundershirts for dogs, melatonin, storm sounds, D.A.P.—can get you where Caras and I got to: coping. If not, talk to your veterinarian about stronger meds for your friend. I’ll use anything to help a dog be less terrified, medication included. Good luck!