Does your dog freak out during thunderstorms? Do they start panting or shaking? Maybe they even run and hide in a bedroom or the basement. Thunderstorms are such a common point of anxiety in dogs. But the question is, how do we keep our pups calm and feeling safe?
Are there things you can do at home to manage your pup’s fear? Or products that will benefit your dog? We will help you find the best tips and tricks to soothe your dog during a scary storm. Hopefully, you’ll be able to figure out which one can help your dog.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Thunderstorms?
Storms seem to scare a lot of dogs. And more specifically, it’s the thunder that freaks them out (I’d be lying if I said those loud bangs don’t scare me!). But dogs have especially heightened and sensitive hearing. Not only is the bang of thunder more intense for them, but they can hear the sound of thunder from much farther away than we can.
Typically, dogs afraid of thunder will also suffer from anxiety when they hear other loud noises, like fireworks. My dog, fearful of these noises, also gets scared if she hears a car backfire or even a nail gun from home construction at a neighbor’s house. And dogs who suffer from other anxieties—like separation anxiety—also tend to be prone to a fear of thunder.
Does Scolding Help an Anxious Dog?
As much as we hate to say it, our pups can get a bit annoying or frustrating when they get anxious. Your dog might pant heavily and loudly, whimper, or run around in a panic. Your dog might even do something destructive such as getting into the trash, tearing up a shoe, or even having an accident on the carpet. But let me tell you, scolding your dog for these behaviors does not help.
Think of your dog like a child. When children are scared, they panic. They might scream, cry, or run around. Does yelling at them to calm down ever work? Definitely not.
Yelling at and scolding your dog for their anxious behaviors will only intensify their fears. And now, not only are they afraid of the storm but they are also afraid of getting in trouble with you.
Instead, let’s talk about ways to help soothe your scared pup.
How to Prepare My Dog for Thunderstorms
You can do a few things throughout the year—especially during non-storm seasons—to help prep your pup for the scary times.
- Reward your dog for calm behaviors. In the same way that you can teach a dog to sit, stay, and roll over, you can work on training them to be calm on cue. And as with any training process, always give your pup plenty of rewards! Rewards help reinforce the training and good behavior. And hopefully, this training will stick with them during those scary thunderstorms.
- Quietly play a recording of storm sounds. You can play recordings of thunderstorms around your dog from time to time to help desensitize them. Of course, you’ll want to play it at a calming volume so that you don’t freak out your dog anymore. But if they can get used to hearing those sounds when it’s not panic time, this could help them not feel as scared during an actual thunderstorm.
Home Remedies to Calm a Dog During a Storm
You can do some things at home to help your scared pup during a storm. These tips are simple, and they use everyday household items and spaces.
- Create a safe space for your dog. If your dog feels scared during a storm, they’ll likely want a small, safe space in which to “hide.”. This space might be a bedroom or even the basement. You can set up your dog’s bed, blankets, toys, and anything else you think might be comfort items for them. You may even want to use a small nook of a room—like between the bed and the wall.
- Use white noise to help block out the sound. White noise, like a box fan, a white noise app, or even calming instrumental music can help block out some of the scary sounds and soothe your dog.
- Use a diffuser with a calming scent. Diffusers help to calm us, and they can help calm your dog too. Try using a soothing scent like lavender.
Dog Thunderstorm Anxiety Treatments You Can Buy
On top of using typical items in your home, there are a few things you can purchase online or in a store to help your anxious pup.
- Calming supplements and medications. There are tons of calming dog supplements you can purchase for your sweet pup. These are like vitamins; they help dogs who are a little higher strung or get scared during storms. Or, if your dog’s anxiety is more severe, you can talk with your veterinarian about getting a prescription anxiety medication for your dog. Remember that either of these needs to be in your dog’s system before the storm. So be sure to check the forecast ahead of time.
- A dog thunder shirt. There are many different companies that make thunder shirts, jackets, or vests. These are snug-fitting vests or wraps for your dog to wear. The tightness has a similar effect to a weighted blanket. The pressure helps to calm them.
- Distracting dog toys. You can find all sorts of distracting dog toys online, like this treat puzzle. If your dog is food motivated, this toy could help distract them from their fear of the storm. You can also try the classic KONG toy with a little bit of frozen peanut butter in it. Just make sure the peanut butter is sugar-free and doesn’t contain any xylitol.