If you have a dog who becomes anxious during thunderstorms, you know how stressful the experience can be. Dogs sense sound and barometric pressure differently than humans, making a thunderstorm a truly frightening experience. If your dog is prone to thunderstorm anxiety, they can cause harm to themselves or even become destructive. Fortunately, there are some ways you can help ease the anxiety your dog feels during a thunderstorm.
Fear of Thunder
Fear of loud noises is natural in humans and animals. But in dogs, this fear can escalate and cause even more anxiety. During a thunderstorm, your dog might:
- Bark excessively
- Cling to their owners
- Have accidents
- Refuse to eat
How to Calm your Dog
Thankfully, there are many ways to help your anxious dog in the event of a thunderstorm.
Desensitize your Dog
One way you can help an anxious dog is to prepare them by getting them used to scary sounds. This will take about 8 weeks to take effect.
Play audio of scary sounds for your dog, starting on low volume. Incrementally increase the volume of the noises, making sure to stay within the dog’s comfort zone.
You’ll notice that your dog will eventually become used to the noises and they will stay more calm during a thunderstorm.
Distract your dog
Punishing or ignoring your dog’s behavior is likely to make their anxiety worse. The best thing to do is to provide them with positive stimuli like gentle petting. If your dog is able to do so, you can also distract them with an indoor game of tug or fetch, or give them a chew toy.
Provide a Hiding Place
Find a crate, dog bed, space under the bed, or rug for your dog to go to seek comfort. It is best if this space is in the most sound proof room in your home. Dark, quiet places also work best. You can place toys/treats in the hiding space ahead of time so your dog gets used to it.
Use Calming Remedies
Getting a thunder jacket for your dog can help create a swaddling effect and calm your dog. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is a calming liquid that many owners swear by. Dog Pheromones are another way to promote relaxation. Pheromones, or chemical messengers, work by sending out reassuring signals that can help calm mild anxiety.
If the above methods don’t work, it may be necessary to see your veterinarian and start medication for a highly anxious dog. Some people tranquilize their dog during a thunderstorm, and while this may immobilize your dog, it won’t get rid of the anxiety.
Drugs in the diazepam family can help decrease anxiety. They also have an amnesiac effect, which means your dog will likely forget the trauma that happened during the thunderstorm. Medications should be used as a last resort and you should always consult your vet before using them.
While dealing with pet anxiety can be scary, there are many methods you can use to decrease your dogs fear. No two dogs are alike, and different methods work for different dogs. Working with your behaviorist or veterinarian can help you best figure out how to cope.