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Environments

Thunderstorms: 5 tips to calm your dog

Thunderstorms: 5 tips to calm your dog

Does your pet turn into a scaredy dog during thunderstorms? If so, they're 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 pet parent.
 

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:
 

Above all, be kind and patient with your dog throughout the thunderstorm. Do whatever you can to calm your dog without adding to their panic. If they need a dark room, let them have it. If they want to lean against your leg, let them. If they follow you from room to room, just go with it. You'll be providing the comfort they need to ride out the storm.

 

  1. Anticipate storm events. By knowing when a storm is likely, you and your dog can be better prepared.
     
  2. Stay calm. Adopt a neutral, matter-of-fact attitude. Your dog can quickly pick up on any unease or fear on your part. Never punish them for displaying fearful behaviour, as this only makes things worse.
     
  3. Provide your dog with a safe indoor place during storms. It can be their crate, a bathroom or closet - any place as long as your dog feels comfortable there. Practice using this space at other times, and use positive reinforcement, so that your dog views this as a safe space. 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 they don't feel trapped.
     
  4. Buy a CD of thunderstorm sounds. Start a 'thunderstorm desensitisation program' by first playing the CD at extremely low volume while you go about your day-to-day activities. If your dog acts afraid again, redirect them 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 or more. Only progress at a pace your dog can handle.
     
  5. Give your dog medication. 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. Ask them for medications that may help.

Above all, be kind and patient with your dog throughout the thunderstorm. Do whatever you can to calm your dog without adding to their panic. If they need a dark room, let them have it. If they want to lean against your leg, let them. If they follow you from room to room, just go with it. You'll be providing the comfort they need to ride out the storm.

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