I don’t know if you’ve experienced it or not, but I certainly have been zapping myself and on occasion the dogs with static electricity in the past few weeks. So I did a little scientific research on why!
The current dry and windy conditions with low humidity help to generate static electricity. The air lacks moisture which normally allows static electricity to find a balance. The charge builds up as the wind passes charged particles over us and when the charge has built up to a high voltage it will make the jump to equalise the charges and you may see it (especially if it’s dark) and hear that little crackle or snap. The charge tends to build up on things that are good insulators such as skin and fur.
The voltage in a static shock can range from 4,000 to 35,000 volts, which is about the level we start to feel it, but generally has no current. So, a static shock may hurt but will not kill you because it has no current. Lightning is also a form of natural static electricity but much more powerful.
So how does this affect you and your dog? When you rub your dog’s coat you may find it promotes small static shocks. These may not be significant enough to cause you or your dog any distress and may be uncomfortable but not harmful.
I’ve found the worst shocks come when you reach out to pet your dog and the charge jumps from your fingertips to your dog’s nose. Ouch!! This might cause both you and your dog to yelp out loud and generally you will move quickly away from each other due to reflexive action (an involuntary response). Why? To protect the body from harm and the body’s action is to increase distance from that. Even though you love your dog you got zapped! Most of us and our dogs will recover quickly and we can again enjoy being with them. Some dogs will be more sensitive however and may take some time to recover and may even associate you with pain for a short period. You may see some avoidance, particularly from an outstretched hand immediately after, so be careful if you have a particularly sensitive or anxious dog.
How can you reduce the incidence of static electricity? You can increase the humidity within your home, up to 40 to 50%, by placing water bowls around the home, use anti-static sheets in a dryer, reduce wearing of synthetic and wool clothing, and wear cotton instead. Rubber-soled shoes can increase the likelihood of static shock and build up static electricity if you walk across a nylon or wool carpet. Leather soled shoes are a better option to avoid static shock. You can also discharge the static by touching something metallic – but you’ll still get a spark!
For your dog you can spray mist their coat or rub them over with a damp cloth before petting them or wet your hands.
Hopefully with these tips we can all have a less shocking time of it during these windy conditions!