Dogs and Thunderstorms: How to Keep Your Dog Calm
For a lot of pet parents, dogs and thunderstorms mean trouble. Whether your pup fears stormy sounds or you feel powerless to help your panicking pooch, someone usually ends up stressed out when the thunder starts to roll.
Understanding your four-legged friend's fears and how to soothe him can help you both cope and comfort one another during thunderstorms.
How to Tell if My Dog Is Scared
It's natural for both humans and dogs to startle at unexpected loud noises. The reaction has a purpose. Our startle reflex imbues us with a quick dose of a chemical called cortisol that gives us the strength to either flee or fight the danger. It's all about instinctive survival. Sometimes, though, the fear response doesn't match the level of the threat. The technical descriptor for this is "maladaptive." In other words, it's not helpful. Your dog's fear of thunderstorms may be maladaptive, causing him to appear overreactive or remain stressed for a long time.
Take time to observe your pup closely during a storm. How does he react? Hiding, barking, and running away are common responses. There are also some less obvious signs. A low-set tail position, even if it's wagging, may indicate fear. He might stand with his ears pinned back, eyes wide, and nostrils flared. Fearful dogs may draw back their lips to show the ridges of teeth at the corners of their mouth or lick their lips. Your pup may lower his head or entire body to the floor. Panting when it's not hot is also a giveaway for stress.
Observe your canine buddy's reaction to pinpoint what it is about a storm that bothers him. Is it the booming thunder, rattling winds, noisy rainfall, or flashing light? Some pups become nervous following a barometric change in weather. Many dogs can sense changes in air pressure and may become agitated in anticipation of the storm. Paying attention to what triggers your pup's reaction — and how long it takes him to recover — can help you better understand what is driving his fear so you can find ways to help him cope.
How to Keep Your Pup Calm During Storms
1. Make a haven
Before a storm arrives, prepare a space where your doggo can feel secure. You can set up a den for him in a quiet place in your home — extra blankets in his crate or a closet or even right next to you. He should feel like he can escape, though. Don't shut him in or make him feel trapped. If you have hard floors, you might put down rugs to reduce vibration and noise. A pheromone product near the space may help your little buddy relax, too.
Be sure to introduce anything you use for his haven when he's already calm. If you only set it up right when a storm happens, your dog may associate it with panic and fear rather than comfort. Place tasty treats or favorite toys in the spot to encourage him to hang out there regularly.
2. Soothe your dog
It's a myth that comforting a scared dog only reinforces their fear. These techniques will give you better results:
- Be there for him, but don't make a fuss. Act as normally as possible.
- If he wants to snuggle close to you, let him. You don't need to baby him; just be reassuring.
- If he opts for his haven, let him. Go there to offer him affection and calming words.
- If he tries to hide elsewhere, let him — as long as it's safe. Make the area as comfortable and quiet as possible.
- Consider trying a calming supplement with ingredients like Chamomile and Ashwagandha.
3. Divert his attention
If your pup isn't outright terrified, try engaging him in an activity he enjoys at the first signs of a storm. If he senses you are calm, it may reduce his own distress.
- Toss around training treats for him to chase or hide them for him to discover.
- Give him a new toy or a chew bone to occupy his attention.
- Distract him with rambunctious games like tug or fetch.
- Play music to cover up the sounds of the storm.
4. Explore additional calming options
If you've tried these tactics and your pooch is still inconsolable during storms, talk with your veterinarian. A medical issue may be exacerbating his fear response. Your vet might prescribe calming supplements, treatments, or medications to help your buddy cope.
Keep in mind that the storm will end.
When it comes to dogs and thunderstorms, the best thing you can do is to have patience with your furry friend and offer comfort, distraction, and care.
You'll strengthen your bond and learn how to ride out the storm together.