As humans, we usually marvel at the sounds and sights of a thunderstorm, but for many of our canine companions, it is quite the opposite. Storm phobias are common in canines. They can become affected and react to the elements that make up a storm, from the sound of clapping thunder, the drop in pressure, lightning flashing, rain falling, and electrical charges in the air. You may notice your dog is unsettled during a thunderstorm if they pace, pant, and tremble; sometimes, they can become destructive.
Fortunately, while phobias cannot be easily cured, there are ways you can calm your pet and help them feel safe when a thunderstorm arrives. Studies have shown that 30 out of 32 dogs improved with the proper management, and we have a list of tips to help you calm your dog during a thunderstorm.
Top 8 Tips for Calming Your Dog During a Thunderstorm
1. Give Your Dog Some Comfort
Contrary to popular belief, comforting your dog during a thunderstorm is helpful if they are seeking it. It is believed that providing your dog comfort may reinforce the behavior in them, but because fear is an emotional response, they are unable to learn in this state, so comforting does not reward the fear. Petting, comforting, and speaking to them gently and calmly will help them feel more settled and safer. Don’t fuss too much, but be present and give them attention with something they love, like throwing a ball or even brushing their coat.
2. Create a Calm Space
You can help your dog refocus and stay calm by creating a relaxed environment. You can do this by playing some of your favorite calming music to help drown the sound of clapping thunder or give your dog its favorite chew toy to stay distracted. Try being proactive by keeping an eye on the weather report so you know when a storm will arrive, and you can start calming your pup before the storm hits.
3. Try an Anxiety Dog Vest
An anxiety vest is a great way to ease your dog during a storm. They are designed to wrap your dog with gentle pressure, much like a swaddled baby, and can slow down their heart rate and soothe anxiety. Make sure it is a snug fit that doesn’t cut off circulation, and try introducing it to your dog slowly before a storm so they can get used to it. You can reward them with their favorite treats to help them grow a positive association with their vest.
4. Provide a Safe Place to Hide
When your dog feels afraid, they will naturally seek shelter, which is usually somewhere dark and warm, like your wardrobe or under your bed. You can provide a safe haven for them during a storm to help them feel safe. A crate is usually a great option because it is cozy and confined. You can cover it with a blanket to help block out the flashes of lightning and mute the sounds of rumbling thunder. It can also be any place where your dog feels safe but make sure that they will be warm, and the visual and auditory elements of the thunderstorm can be muted.
5. Drown Out the Noise
You can help your pet by drowning out the anxiety-inducing noises that come with a thunderstorm. Popular music streaming apps provide calming playlists, especially for dogs that feel frightened, so you can scroll through and find something that you and your pup can enjoy.
6. Find a Friend
Just like humans, moral support can help in a situation where your dog feels anxious. If you have another dog that doesn’t share the same storm phobia or even a friend’s dog, it will be helpful to have that calm energy around. You can distract your dog or try enticing it to join in a game of tug-o-war with the dog that isn’t frightened. Your dog will likely want to join in on the fun, which can help distract it from the scary storm.
7. Practice Desensitization
You can practice desensitizing your dogs to the sounds of a thunderstorm to help reduce anxiety triggers in the future. You can find a thunderstorm sound soundtrack and start playing it for your dog on a very low volume. While the sounds are playing, you can award your dog with treats and interaction. As they become more used to the sound, you can slowly increase the volume. After several weeks, your dog may become completely desensitized to the sounds of thunder, or symptoms could improve significantly.
For some dogs that experience storm phobia, anxiety medications are necessary. Consult with your vet to find the best solution for your pet. It could be an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to help your dog get through the thunderstorm.
What You Shouldn’t Do During a Thunderstorm
Your dog’s thunderstorm phobia should be treated with care, and while there are tips to help soothe their anxiety, there are also things you should avoid doing.
Don’t ignore your dogs’ feelings. They will not go away on their own and can only get worse if not managed correctly. Take the necessary steps to help ease your dog’s anxiety before a storm hits, and their symptoms will improve over time.
Don’t punish them while they are afraid. This will make the problem worse, but you can comfort and reassure them during an anxious episode to help them feel protected and safe.
If you can help it, don’t leave your dog alone during a thunderstorm. If you are away and there is a possibility of a storm arriving, arrange for a pet sitter or a friend to comfort your dog.
Although your dog’s storm phobia can cause anxiety, there are effective ways to calm them when the thunder rolls in. Try our tips to find what best suits your dog’s temperament. The odds are that eventually, your pup will tolerate a thunderstorm like a top dog. If your dog still struggles, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian or a behavioral specialist to find the best help for your pet’s phobia.
Featured Image Credit: Aleksey Boyko, Shutterstock