It’s thunderstorm season here in the Midwest, which causes many of our beast friends to run for the hills…or the bathroom…or under a desk during storms. Why do dogs react so strongly to bad weather, and what can you do to help calm your dog if he’s in distress?
This article from Sidewalk Dog has some fascinating answers – and if you’ve heard of the old “dryer sheet” trick, you’re gonna want to keep reading:
Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of dogs like severe weather. Yes, ‘tis the season for tornadoes here in Minnesota, and if you’re one of those dog parents whose furry friend runs for cover every time the sky turns that particular shade of green, you know that staying calm yourself is one of the best ways to ease Fido’s own fears about thunderstorms and other scary weather events.
We at Sidewalk Dog are always hungry for more information, however, so we sought out the advice of an expert: weatherman, Minnesota native and devoted dog dad Jonathan Yuhas.
Yuhas has an Australian Cattle Dog mix named Foster, who reacts to storms by staying inside and foraging for food.
“One time [during a storm], he not only got into the trash,” Yuhas recalls, “but he dragged the whole trash can to his bed in the other room so he could lay in his dog bed and sort through his found treasure.”
The meteorologist explains why some animals get nervous at the threat of severe weather:
“Animals can hear thunder – which does spook some dogs – but a bigger factor is that dogs can hear higher-pitched sounds compared to humans. Severe weather with tornadoes is caused by wind shear – when the wind is coming from the Southeast at the surface and changes to the Southwest a few thousand feet above the ground. This wind shear produces high-pitched sound that dogs most likely can hear. The sound would be awful, and may sound like a high-pitched screaming.
When dogs are bothered by sounds, they will act ill and often lay still until the sound is gone. I believe it is dogs’ instinct to act ill or sleepy during these severe thunderstorms as protection; otherwise, they could get hurt during a storm if they are out running around looking to play or mate.”
Yuhas adds that only certain storms produce wind shear, and recommends that if your dog gets nervous during storms, to “let the dog go to his safe place, give him water and be calm yourself.”
Sidewalk Dog had heard rubbing a dog’s coat with dryer sheets can help calm him during a storm by removing the static electricity – and thanks to dog trainer Colleen A. Falconer, we learned that this can actually be dangerous, as dryer sheets are toxic, and if your pup licks his fur afterwards being rubbed with one, things could turn out very badly indeed. She instead recommends putting a snug cotton T-shirt on your dog, which helps with the static as well and may calm him down. Thanks to Colleen for the important tip!
So please, for the love of Dog, skip the dryer sheets, and instead stay calm, comfort your worried four-legged friend and think about which dog park to visit when the sun comes out again.