If you have a dog with storm phobia, a thunderstorm in the forecast is your worst nightmare. Your dog pants, paces, whines, and might even become destructive during the storm. You worry about the psychological damage and physical harm they can cause themselves during this highly-stressful event. So, how do you handle dog fear and anxiety related to storms?
Here are eight tips to calm your dog during a storm:
Be Home With Your Dog
For a dog who already fears thunderstorms, being alone will only worsen the anxiety. If bad weather is in the forecast, try to be home or have someone stay with your dog during the storm.
Give your dog the comfort and attention she needs to calm her anxiety. An anxious dog is unable to learn due to being overly stimulated and emotional, which means comforting is not rewarding the fear. Try a calming massage to help your dog relax during the storm.
If a dog is punished or ignored during a frightening event, it’s likely to worsen the anxiety. Instead, offer a positive stimulus, such as gentle petting, to distract and calm your dog. If your dog will still engage, try a game of indoor fetch, tug, or offer a high-value chew.
Offer a Safe Place
Place your dog’s crate and/or bed in the most sound-proof room of your home. A crate is a natural, psychological defense for dogs and can have an incredible influence on their comfort level. It’s also helpful to close the blinds to shelter your dog from the visual stimulation of a storm.
Compete With Noise
When a completely sound-proof room doesn’t exist, compete with the noise by utilizing a radio or white noise machine. Dog-calming music can also be helpful for the highly nervous dog to muffle the sound of the storm.
For mild to moderate cases of storm anxiety, natural therapies can be highly effective. A thunder jacket replicates swaddling and may sooth your dog into a calmer state. Bach flower extracts (as found in Bach’s Rescue Remedy), diffusing lavender oil, and dog pheromones can promote relaxation.
Try to desensitize your dog to the sound of storms by utilizing a thunderstorm sound CD. Start by playing the CD at a very low volume while offering your dog plenty of high-value treats and positive interaction. By slowly increasing the volume over several weeks, desensitization will lessen or completely eliminate anxiety during storms.
Visit Your Veterinarian
For the highly-anxious dog who doesn’t respond to the above methods, a visit to the veterinarian to discuss medication may be the solution. However, medication should be a last resort when desensitization efforts fail.
While storms can cause dogs to wreak havoc on your home and themselves, there are several pet relaxation techniques you can use to lessen their anxiety and increase their comfort level. If you have a dog who suffered with storm phobia, what did you do to make her more comfortable?
Kelsie McKenzie is the owner and fur-covered girl behind the scenes of It's Dog or Nothing, a resource for ‘all things Pyrenees.’ She currently lives near Seattle with her Air Force husband and two Great Pyrenees, Mauja and Atka. Kelsie is also a content creator, social media manager, and an avid animal lover.