Thunderstorms: 5 Tips to Calm Your Dog
Does your pet turn into a scaredy-dog during thunderstorms? If so, he's certainly not alone. Thunderstorm anxiety affects many dogs and can often increase as they age. With symptoms ranging from barking to chewing to self-injury, it can be a serious problem for both dog and owner.
Not only is the loud noise of thunder scary, dogs can hear it at a much greater distance than humans can. The smell of the air also changes when a storm approaches, and the keen nose of a dog detects this early. The air pressure changes, too, and a dog's ears are more sensitive to pressure changes than most people. In some cases, it might hurt.
5 tips to help your dog weather the storm:
- Stay calm.Adopt a neutral, matter-of-fact attitude. Your dog can quickly pick up on any unease or fear on your part.
- Don't comfort your dog when he acts afraid. Giving him hugs or special attention can actually reinforce his fearful behavior. Speak to him in a happy, playful voice to give him confidence. Never punish him for his fearful behavior. If you can get your dog to play with you during a storm, all the better.
- Provide your dog with a safeindoorplace during storms. It can be his crate, a bathroom or closet—anyplace as long as he feels comfortable there. Many dogs have been lost when they ran from their fenced yards in terror during storms. If you have a designated "safe indoor space" for your dog, be sure to leave the door open to it so he doesn't feel trapped.
- Play thunderstorm sounds for your dog. You can easily find thunderstorm sounds on YouTube. Start a thunderstorm "conditioning program" by first playing the sounds on extremely low volume while you go about your day-to-day activities. If your dog acts afraid again, don't attend to the fearful behavior. Redirect him to a pleasant activity, such as playing ball. Gradually increase the volume until your pooch can handle a more realistic sounding storm. This process may take several days to a few weeks.
- Ask your vet for help. If your dog is extremely agitated during thunderstorms, you may want to consider medication or a natural remedy for pets. Your veterinarian can help with this, if he or she thinks it’s an appropriate solution.