Summer is thunderstorm season and your dog Does. Not. Approve.
Lots of dogs have a strong aversion to the sound of thunder. It makes sense! Dogs’ can hear 2-3 times as well as humans, and thunder is loud! It’s also unpredictable, and most dogs can’t understand a detailed explanation of complex weather patterns.
How can you soothe your dog during a thunderstorm? There are plenty of things you can try that don’t involve, “moving to an area without high pressure systems.” Here are five.
1. Create Coziness
The most natural cures for common dog phobias are always the best ones to start with. What your dog doesn’t like about thunder is likely that he feels unsafe; he doesn’t know where the noise is coming from and whether or not it’s something that can hurt him. Remedy this by being as close to your dog as possible when a storm strikes, petting him calmly if he’ll let you. You can also set up a safe space for your dog where he can “hide out” until the storm is over. Think: A pile of blankets under your desk or a comfy crate lined with pillows and soft toys.
2. Desensitization Therapy
There is power in repetition! Odds are, the more your dog hears the sound of thunder, the more he’ll grow used to it. Thanks to the power of the internet, it’s now entirely possible to stream realistic thunderstorm sounds right through your computer or phone. Start with a soft soundtrack and stay near your dog while it’s playing. Give him treats and encouragement while he stays calm…rinse and repeat nightly or weekly, depending on the time of year. Gradually increase the volume until your dog doesn’t even notice the difference between real thunder and silence. Viola!
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3. Wear Him Out
A restless dog is an anxious dog. Dogs, even sedentary ones, need exercise every single day. If you know a thunderstorm is likely, do your best to get your dog out of the house and out of breath beforehand. Head out on a run, go for a long walk, or just toss the ball back and forth in the yard until your pooch is tuckered out. He’ll release a lot of hormones during exercise that he’d otherwise store up for “Panic Mode” once the thunder starts. If you’re lucky, he’ll sleep exhaustedly through the storm!
4. Try Thunder Products
There are a lot of pet products out there designed specifically to “calm” your dog during a thunderstorm. They’re worth trying, but understand that they don’t necessarily work for every dog. Thunder Shirts are the most well-known and though “ThunderShirt” itself is a brand, you can find dozens of variations online. There are calming sprays and diffusers that utilize the power of essential oils. Calming collars, soft chews, weighted blankets…there’s a world of products out there to try, but you should always ask your vet before trying anything potentially harmful.
5. Get Prescription Meds
Speaking of your vet…have you talked to her about your pet’s phobias? Particularly if your dog is generally just an anxiety-prone pup, your vet might suggest a very low-dose anti-anxiety medication for you to use as necessary. Some medications can be given sporadically while some need to be given continuously so they can build up in your dog’s system; your vet can point you in the right direction.
Thunder is a harmless noise, a force of nature, and a fact of life. Your dog’s thunder-induced panic attacks don’t have to be. If your pup shows signs of anxiousness during thunder – trembling, whimpering, hiding, urination, etc. – it’s time to talk to try something new. When in doubt, talk to your vet!