Thunderstorms are anxiety-inducing for many of us.
Imagine how it must feel for a dog who has better hearing and is more easily confused by the sights and sounds. A lot of dogs go into panic mode with a storm approaches and it can be tough to deal with them during this time. Here are a few tips for helping our pup cope with thunderstorms.
Provide a Safe Space
Animals in the wild naturally retreat to the comfort of caves and logs to escape from a threat, so it’s important to provide your pup with the same opportunity for relief. If he’s already crate trained then allow him access to it during a storm if he wants to go in. The walls will provide an extra barrier to help calm him down. If there’s no crate available, he might be amenable to the idea of hiding out in a closet until the storm passes, or even chilling under the bed. If so, don’t try and drag him out to hang out in the room next to you.
Use a Thundershirt
If you haven’t heard of the Thundershirt, it’s a product that’s specifically designed to calm down dogs during storms by providing consistent pressure on their bodies. It mimics being wrapped in a blanket or having his mother covering him with her protection. Some owners have seen great results, while others are skeptical, but there’s no harm in trying (other than losing a few bucks). You can make a DIY shirt using an old blanket or even bandages if you’ve got them. Make sure it covers both the neck and the chest snugly, but not so tight you’re cutting off circulation.
Don’t Coddle Your Dog
If your pup jumps up next to you on the bed during a storm, resist the urge to wrap him in your arms. This only serves to encourage the behavior and can end up keeping you up all through the night. Let him lie there if you’re fine with him being on the furniture, but otherwise don’t act like anything out of the ordinary is happening. Dogs take their cues from their owners, so coddling him only tells him that he has a reason to be worried. Act normally, as you would when there’s no storm, so he’ll know there’s no reason to worry.
Use a Recording
Sometimes it helps to get your dog used to the noises associated with thunderstorms before one actually occurs. Buy a CD of thunderstorm sounds and play it at random times so your dog will learn what thunder sounds like and know not to be afraid of it when the real thing happens. It sounds silly, but some owners report success with it. Also, if you’re already in the midst of a storm it might help to put on some soothing music to help calm his nerves.
Don’t Have Guests Over
If your dog has issues with handling thunderstorms, don’t make the situation worse by inviting guests over on a stormy day. If his nerves are already on edge having a stranger around might make things worse. In fact, you could create a dangerous situation if your pup is the type to become aggressive when scared. Also, keep him away from exits in case he wants to dart when someone walks in the door.
Though this should probably be seen as a last resort, some dogs do require medication to get through storms. Pups with severe anxiety during bad weather can turn to self-destructive behavior including chews at their paws and legs or bouncing off the walls and hurting themselves. Speak with your vet for medication, either chemical or natural, that might keep him calm when the booms start rolling in. The most important thing is to keep your pet and your family safe, so don’t rule it out as an option if nothing else seems to work.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.