During a thunderstorm, blankets can be one of the most useful tools to have on hand. They can serve multiple purposes and can save you a lot of money if you have a dog that is in such a panic they dig at drywall or flooring. Many people have spare bedspreads or moving blankets laying around and these are the types I most often recommend. Moving blankets are thick and work well for both noise dampening and darkening a room, but they also tend to stand up well to chewing and digging. Bedspreads are often weighted which can help increase comfort and allow for some great burrowing. If you don’t have either, don’t worry any blanket will do. With that said, I don’t recommend your grandmother’s antique handmade quilt.
One blanket can be enough for some dogs, but I do recommend having a few due to the versatility. Here’s 10 useful functions of a blanket for management during a thunderstorm.
Purpose #1: To Burrow or To Hide
Dogs that can will try to flee or hide when they are afraid. Blankets provide a great place for the dog to burrow and hide. Take note to places your dog will try to go during a storm and place a blanket or two in this area.
Purpose #2: As A Noise Barrier Around a Crate
Many dogs love to go into their crate or “doggy den” during a storm. It is already a safe place to them. While we don’t want to lock them in their crates we can definitely help make it feel even safer by reducing the noise inside the crate with a few blankets drooped over it.
Purpose #3: Darken Room
While we often focus on the noise, many dogs are actually frightened by the lightning flashes. Whether it is the lightning itself or a learned association that lightning predicts the scary boom, blankets can help eliminate this aspect of the storm when used to cover windows.
Purpose #4: A place to hide treats for a search in the middle of the storm
For dogs that will take food during the storm, giving them the opportunity to search for those treats in the blankets not only can serve as enrichment and distraction during the storm, but it can also change their opinion of storms. Some dogs learn, thunder predicts a fun game of find the treats. Additionally, if they are searching the noise might be muffled by their head under the blanket. For dogs that don’t take food, the smell alone may be enough to change their opinion a little each storm and over time they may start investigating the blanket and eating those yummy treats.
Purpose #5: Allow your dog to play the game of the destruction with an old one
One of the games we play is the game of destruction (post coming soon). For dogs that chew or dig during storms, I will typically select something I don’t mind being destroyed. I will elicit a game of play with the item and then the dog takes over destruction. Old blankets can be useful for this and when they are all tired of shredding, you can use those pieces in a food toy.
Purpose #6: Use the shreds to stuff inside of a food toy to make it harder
Shreds whether from the game of destruction you played during a thunderstorm or from you physically cutting up an old blanket can be useful for making a food toy a little harder. The new Treat Snake or the JW Hol-ee Roller. For some dogs just taking the shreds out is fun, even without the food. These are great toys to give during a thunderstorm if your dog will work to get food as this will take his mind off the storm.
Purpose #7: The feel of a blanket can be comforting
Whether your dog decides to burrow or hide, or simply lay on top of it, the blanket alone can be comforting. If placed as a cover on your dog, the weight of the blanket may have a calming effect similar to that of swaddling a baby.
Purpose #8: A place to spray pheromones
To add to the feel of comfort there are pheromones that mimic a mother dog’s milk that is designed to appease the puppies. Studies do show the pheromones to be effective for some dogs during fireworks, thunderstorms, visits to the veterinarian’s office, and more.
Purpose #9: Make a fort to hide in with your dog
Remember when you were young, how much fun you could have in a blanket fort. Bring back your childhood innocence while helping a dog out. You and your dog can enter the fort and play with feeding toys while getting the benefit of the blankets muffling some noise and blocking out the light. Bonus, building a fort brings out the child in all of us which can send out some good vibes to your dog. If you have never built a fort before, don’t worry WikiHow has you covered with this article.
Purpose #10: Put them in places your dog digs to protect surfaces
If your dog has primary areas he goes to dig, say a certain wall or a certain area of the floor, you will definitely want to redirect him, or consult with your veterinarian right away for ways to alleviate his anxiety during storms. Additionally, placing a pile of blankets in these areas can give your dog a better option while helping to protect the surface. One client cleverly took a blanket and hung it on the wall where her dog normally dug and put some spray cheese all over it. The dog that normally dug, licked spray cheese instead. Surprisingly this was a dog that would not eat during the storm, but perhaps digging spray cheese was not in his behavioral repertoire.