It is very common for dogs to feel upset by the booming thunder and flashing lightning of a thunderstorm. In fact, because dogs are especially sensitive to barometric pressure, they can sense an oncoming storm before you can. They may start to act anxious, or chew on things or even run away in a panic. And while it may seem natural to sit down on the floor and coddle your dog in soothing tones during a thunderstorm, this will only reinforce his or her anxious behavior in the long run.
First of all, dogs can pick up on their humans’ feelings, so it is important for you to stay calm if you are to calm your dog during a thunderstorm. If they sense your anxiety, that will only make them feel and act worse. Remember, it’s only a storm and it will pass.
Second, provide a safe, enclosed, den-like area where your dog can securely sit out the storm. A crate inside the house is the perfect place because they feel safer there with a blanket and chew toy to gnaw on. If your dog is an outside dog, cover his or her kennel with a blanket and make sure he is secured inside.
Note: Our Woodbridge veterinarians urge you to have ID tags secured to your dog’s collar, and best of all, a microchip. That way if your dog thwarts all of your best efforts to keep her safe and secure during the storm and runs away, it will be easier for those who find your dog to bring her home.
Third: If you do not use a crate to calm your dog during a thunderstorm, make sure the room where you keep him is safe and devoid of small or sharp objects that he could swallow or chew on, as they may do when they are stressed out. Woodbridge Animal Hospital recommends crating, but if this is not possible for you, make sure he has a soft, secure place where he feels safe during the storm. Keep the doors and windows closed and curtained to dull the noise and light of the storm. Sometimes turning on a TV or some music that the dog is used to hearing can dull the sound of the storm outside and help to calm your dog.
Fourth: Keep your dog away from exits and entrances to your home. Some dogs become so stressed out that they may attack people coming in or out. He or she may also make a run for it if the door is opened.
Note: If your dog has an accident during the storm, be patient and understanding. Don’t make a big deal about it, and be prepared to clean up without a lot of fanfare.
Fifth: One great way to calm your dog’s thunderstorm fear and anxiety is to condition her to accept that storms are nothing to worry about. Using environmental recordings of storms, starting out softly and then making them gradually louder, while having everyone else in the house go calmly about their business has reprogrammed many dogs to stay calm during a storm. This may take some time, but many of our Woodbridge Animal Hospital patients have had a lot of success with this method.