Dog hiding under bed

How to Calm an Anxious Dog during a Thunderstorm

Does your pet turn into a scaredy-dog during thunderstorms?  

Thunderstorm anxiety affects many dogs and can often increase as they age. Symptoms can also vary in severity, ranging from mild barking and chewing to self-injury, making it a serious problem for both dog and owner. But there’s a lot you can do to help them feel safer and less afraid of the storm, and that starts with understanding more about what makes storms so scary for dogs.

brown dog tilting head while laying on the couch brown dog tilting head while laying on the couch

Why Are Dogs Afraid of Storms?

Pet parents know that dogs have finely tuned senses, and those impressive ears and noses can make thunderstorms feel even scarier. Dogs can hear faraway thunder and smell the changes in the air long before humans can. In fact, dogs’ ears are so sensitive that they can often feel the storm’s effect on the atmosphere before most people — and that feeling can be painful.  

So how can you comfort your dog and let them know that they’re safe, when you might not even hear what they’re so scared of?  

dog relaxing under a blanket, on a bed dog relaxing under a blanket, on a bed

Seven Tips to Calm Your Dog During a Storm

Your dog is going to look to you to know if they should be scared and to see how they should respond, so it’s important to learn what they need to see from you.  

Here are seven ways to reassure them. 

Stay Calm to Keep Your Dog Calm

Adopt a neutral, matter-of-fact attitude. Your dog can quickly pick up on any unease or fear on your part. Try watching their body language as much as your dog watches yours. Their movements and expressions can tell you a lot about how they feel! Don’t punish them for being afraid and turn down the intensity of the situation by remaining calm yourself. 

Don't Be Tempted to Fawn on Your Dog When They're Afraid

While you shouldn’t punish your dog for being afraid, piling on the affection can cause problems too — excessive attention during storms actually reinforces their fearful behavior. Speak in a happy, playful voice to let them know they’re safe. If you can get your dog to play with you during a storm, all the better. 

Make a Safe Indoor Place Where Your Dog Can Feel Secure

The crate, a bathroom or even a closet — any place can be a safe place if your dog feels comfortable there. Once you have a designated safe indoor space for your dog, be sure to leave the door open — that way your dog won’t end up feeling trapped. Many dogs have gotten lost running from their fenced yards in terror during storms. Keeping track of them inside and giving them a safe space is important for their physical safety and emotional comfort. 

Give Your Dog Something Else to do

A little distraction can be just what your dog needs to weather the storm, and toys or puzzles are a great place to start. Outdoor play isn’t an option, and puzzles encourage them to focus their doggie thoughts on something besides the thunder — and a puzzle or toy that conceals a treat? Even better! Licking and chewing are self-soothing behaviors for many dogs, so encouraging them to play with toys that motivate them to lick and chew will help in more ways than one (including helping preserve your own highly chewable belongings). 

Play Some Background Noise to Comfort Your Dog

If the storm scares your dog and that’s all they can hear, it’ll take a lot of effort to try and keep them calm. Bursts of unexpected sound can stress both dogs and humans out, and background noise has been known to soothe stress for both species. Try using a white noise machine or music to make the noise level more consistent, and maybe even pleasant! Some dogs find classical music especially soothing, so take the opportunity play them some of their favorite composers. 

Practice by Playing Thunderstorm Sounds for Your Dog

Try creating a “thunderstorm conditioning program" for your dog with the help of thunderstorm tracks from YouTube or a white-noise generator. Start by playing the sounds on extremely low volume while you go about your day-to-day activities. If your dog acts afraid again, redirect them to an activity they enjoylike playing with a favorite toy. Gradually increase the volume in your sessions until your pooch can handle a more realistic sounding storm. This process may take several days to a few weeks, but it can have a really positive long-term impact!

Ask Your Vet for Help

If your dog is extremely agitated during thunderstorms, you may want to consider medication, a stress-relieving pressure vest or a natural remedy for pets. Your veterinarian can help you understand any good options for your dog.



Above all, be kind and patient with your dog throughout the thunderstorm. Helping them feel safer means there is less chance they’ll react to the storm in fear by anything from chewing on furniture to running from the sound and risking getting lost.  


By remaining calm and setting a good example, you’ll help him ride out the storm and hopefully feel less afraid of the weather in the future! 

 

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