Thunderstorms can be terrifying for dogs, especially if there’s frequent lightning. The loud noises associated with thunderstorms may cause your pet to react by howling, hiding, or barking. Many dogs can have a fear of thunderstorms, and your dog may even run off or injure themselves trying to “escape” the storm. Before you let your dog cower in fear during the next thunderstorm, try these tricks to calm him.
Try a ThunderShirt
ThunderShirt is an all-natural dog anxiety aid that consists of a compression shirt. The company swears by their use for curbing dogs’ fears of thunderstorms and other scary stimuli. You can buy Thundershirts at your near pet store or big box store, as well as online. If you don’t have time to go get a Thundershirt before the next big storm, you can make your own to make it easier for your pup to weather the storm. Grab a tight-fitting shirt, or something you can bundle your dog with instead. The swaddling puts pressure on their body and works to calm them. It’s the same reason some anxiety sufferers do well with weighted blankets to curb their symptoms during an attack.
Distract Your Pup
If you know a thunderstorm is approaching, you can distract your pup. Try starting a game with him, such as fetch or tug-o-war, so he will be focused on you and activity rather than the storm. Feed him treats and praise him for playing with you, so he knows that he’s doing the right thing. Try turning on the TV or playing music to drown out the sounds of the storm while it rumbles outside. You may even want to play a white noise machine to not create a calming feeling in the room, but also to dull the sounds of the storm.
How to React to Your Dog’s Fear
If your dog shows signs of fear during the storm, it’s okay to comfort him, but you should also not coddle him too much. Your dog will read your cues, and if you act non-chalant about the storm, he might follow your lead. Continue with your activity, and try to get your dog involved in an activity as stated above. If your dog absolutely wants nothing to do with the storm and chooses to hide, let him. You can even create a “safe space” where he can be to feel calm during the storm. The goal is to make an area where light and sound are blocked, and you can drape a blanket over a chair or a small end table to create a little cave for him. You can also choose to let your dog go in a laundry room, closet or any room without windows; try pulling your curtains or shades closed in the other rooms during the storm as well.
Some dog experts recommend densensitizing your dog to the sound of thunderstorms by playing a recording of a storm. You can download a thunderstorm MP3 online or buy a sleep CD with thunderstorms; the app Rain Rain will also play these sounds. Start with a very low volume, then gradually increase the volume level as your dog grows more accustomed to the sound. If your dog is receptive to the experiment, then he may be able to weather the real thunderstorms just fine, however, just remember not to rush it.
If all of the remedies above don’t work to end your pet’s fear of thunderstorms, you can talk to your vet about medicine, such as anti-anxiety pills. You should never give your dog your own anti-anxiety medicine without talking to your vet, so just focus on the natural remedies we’ve shared.