Puppy’s First Tornado – Preparedness for Pets

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Storm Watch
Tornado warning
Tornado warning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spring came very late to Indiana this year, and I got complacent. With a lot fewer spring storms, I didn’t prep for tornados like I should have. So when the warning sirens went off a few minutes ago and I saw that a tornado had been sighted, I was unprepared.

This is dumb. If you’re lucky, you get up to half an hour of tornado warning, if it’s considerate enough to touch down at a distance and with an observable and predictable path. The average warning time with today’s radar equipment is about 13 minutes, according to NOAA. But you might have just a few minutes, if even that.

So I’m writing this post from my basement, waiting for the tornado to pass (it seems to be heading north of us) and making plans to improve my storm preparations.

With older dogs, preparations could get a little sloppy. They knew the drill, and I could trust them in our shelter area. But like many people, I have a basement which is not puppy-proofed, which means spending more than a couple of minutes down there with a puppy could be anywhere from annoying to dangerous. So I had to disassemble a crate and reassemble it in a basement corner. (Less of a corner, really, and more of a concrete octagon, the foundation for our house’s tower stairs. It’s probably one of the sturdiest shelters I could find.)

This is a better plan, anyway. The crate not only contains the puppy, but provides her a modicum of additional shelter should anything collapse on us. And it contains her, in case of destruction, until I can plan to get her out of a collapsed house safely.

Take-home message: Have a crate already ready already. There’s not usually going to be time to disassemble and carry and reassemble.

Montage of Image:Waurika Oklahoma Tornado Fron...
Image: Waurika Oklahoma Tornado Front-Lit.jpg and Image: Waurika Oklahoma Tornado.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I called Mindy inside and took her to the basement. Oddly, she didn’t recognize her “kennel” cue — probably because while we use it regularly in the bedroom, the car, and hotel rooms, we’ve never sent her to a kennel in the basement and she didn’t quite believe there would be a kennel there. I had to go over and tap the crate itself before she seemed to recognize it (“Oh! That’s a crate, just facing sideways!”) and went promptly inside.

I had a bully stick waiting in there for her, because waiting out tornados is either very exciting (bad!) or very boring (good).

Take-home message: Practice taking shelter so that animals’ cues are known and practiced. What if we’d been in a hurry?

A great idea I heard once is teaching the smoke alarm as a cue for cats (and small dogs, too) to run into a carrier. No hunting for pets in low visibility when seconds count!

Black Labrador puppy Mindy chews a bully stick in her plastic crate, while my laptop rests on top.
Mindy chews in her crate during a tornado warning.

Because I travel frequently with my dogs, and especially because Mindy goes nearly everywhere I do, I have a ready supply of necessities — spare leashes, tote bags full of treat bags and poop bags, etc. There are at least two leashes in my car right now and several more in my house. It’d be a good idea to have a kit or ready stashed ready for emergencies, containing spare leashes, ID, even food and water.

This is particularly important if you live in an area with natural disasters which require emergency evacuations, such as hurricanes or wildfires. (Nobody tries to evacuate and outrun a tornado, or at least no one should.) Don’t lose valuable time scavenging for a leash when you should be on the road.

Take-home message: have emergency pet supplies, both gear and food/water, on hand.

A blackened branch is completely burned through.
This branch fell onto a power line during a recent storm and burned through. This was inside our fenced yard. Check for damage!

And when we get the all-clear here, which I think should be soon, be sure and check for damage or debris before letting your pets loose. Fallen trees can damage fences, or broken material can cut paws. A couple of weeks ago, a thunderstorm took down trees around us and in our yard, which subsequently took down power lines. Check out the photo of what happens when wood hits live power. What if we’d turned the puppy loose into that hazard?

Take-home message: Look around before setting pets loose after a storm. Make sure fences, windows, etc. are still secure.

Okay, our warning is officially over, and Mindy has finished her bully stick. I’m about to head upstairs to confirm that all is well and then I’ll come back for her. Stay safe, everyone!

Related: Coping with Storm Phobia in Pets and Training Options

Series Navigation<< Storm Watch & Storm Success, Part 6 – Phobias & Emergency Management

About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.
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  1. Hi Laura,
    I hope everyone was okay and not much damage and I’m glad you have a basement (they seemed to be a rarity in the Lafayette area). My Abby girl has learned from living in Indiana and knows to head into the interior bathroom when storms hit. Now that it is storm season in Florida, she has a “storm bed” in the bathroom. I think with storms, it is the lightening that bothers her the most, so she is very happy if she can just nap in the bathroom until it is over.

    • We build this house — it was going to have a basement!

      Bathrooms offer not only better shelter during bad storms but there’s some speculation that the tub can help mitigate the negative ions which dogs can sense, which is why many dogs may hide in the tub even untrained. Best of both worlds! Good for Abby!

  2. Thanks for the tips! I do not live in a tornado state so I was not aware of how that goes with having pets. However, I do know to check before letting the dogs outside if it is safe for them.

  3. Thanks for sharing this post. I am very interested in this topic.

  4. It is important to plan ahead when moving with your pet so that you can ensure your furry friend arrives safely. You will need to acquire an appropriate travel kennel to ensure their comfort and safety during transit. Include any medications or special food they need.

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