Ever notice your dog pacing or struggling to get comfortable in the home for seemingly no reason, right before a rainstorm or sudden change in temperature hits the area you live in? If so, you've likely witnessed your canine sensing barometric pressure changes, which we often cannot feel or notice. So, what happens to a dog when he senses a change in barometric pressure? And what can you do if those changes make him uncomfortable, agitated, or anxious?
Dogs and barometric pressure
Can dogs sense the change in pressure when a storm comes in? Yes! Dogs, along with some other domesticated pets as well as livestock, are sensitive to weather changes and shifts in atmospheric pressure. This can sometimes cause a dog's behavior to change, be that in response to fear or uncertainty around the air pressure shifts, or simply as an acknowledgment of what's happening around them. Not all dogs will have a reaction to the weather, and even the ones that do may not display symptoms of anxiety. However, if your dog is showing body language cues that may represent stress, like pacing or restlessness, cowering, lip licking or excessive yawning, she's probably feeling anxious about an impending, or current, storm outside.
What happens during a pressure change
During a storm, the barometric pressure in any outdoor environment drops. This change in air pressure and the amount of moisture in the air can cause an increase in static electricity, which can build up in a dog's fur. Long or thick-haired dogs especially may be prone to feeling the effects of static electricity buildup in their fur during storms, which can be uncomfortable, surprising, and confusing. Storms can also move things around outside that may not be so noticeable to us, like grass, leaves, dirt and any underlying smells just waiting to be unearthed. Thanks to their keen sense of smell, this disruption in the outside world may cause a reaction in dogs, who are suddenly being bombarded with a ton of information all of a sudden.
How to keep your dog comfortable
While there's nothing we can do about barometric pressure shifting or our dog's reactions to it, there are a few things we can provide for our canines that might make them a little more comfortable during those times. One thing to be aware of is your dog's triggers and how she reacts to them, then take measures to meet her needs so the triggers don't completely overwhelm her.
For example, if rains come with a thunderstorm or high-speed gusts of winds outside your dog may become fearful, causing them to hide, pace, bark or even destroy items around your home, depending on the dog. Providing a safe, enclosed space for your dog can offer a sense of security, weighted items like a Thundershirt may calm some dogs, and comforting them with your presence and attention when possible can also soothe them during these scary moments. Keeping background noise on inside the home, like a noise machine, television, or radio, may help your dog relax amid bad weather.
Dogs with severe storm anxiety, along with their owners, may also benefit from desensitization exposure. Dog owners should do this following the care and guidance of a professional behaviorist, who may be able to help your dog develop neutral or even positive associations with thunder, storms, or other elemental changes that come with barometric pressure shifts.
Dogs can and do sense changes in barometric pressure, and can react in a wide range of ways in response to those atmospheric shifts. If your dog has anxiety around storms, establishing safe and secure areas in the home, like a bed, quiet room, or small area with music playing in it may help alleviate stress.