While many dogs won't bat an eye when thunderstorms roll in, others exhibit panic ranging from mild anxiety to full-blown terror. This reaction stems from a dog's natural survival instincts — dogs can sense changes in barometric pressure and static electricity in the air. Severe thunderstorms can even endanger a panicked dog's life by driving them outside to flee a storm, increasing their chances of being hit and killed in traffic. Some dogs even suffer heart attacks.
The bottom line: Knowing how to calm your dog could potentially save their life. So the next time that thunder begins to rumble try implementing the following tricks to help alleviate your pet's fears.
1. Provide Distractions
Pet your dog or give them a gentle massage to distract them from the thunder. Try playing fetch or tug-of-war indoors, or simply talk to them and reassure them that they'll be okay. You might also provide chew toys since dogs often soothe themselves by chewing. Consider giving them a long-lasting chew like a rawhide or maybe a rubber ball with peanut butter inside. Engaging your pooch in these activities or merely showering them with affection will help distract them by turning their focus to more enjoyable things.
2. Give Them Company
Many dogs experience some level of separation anxiety when their owner is absent, and storms only add to that anxiety. If the forecast predicts a storm, try to stay at home with your furry friend, or find someone who can. Go about your normal indoor activities while you're there, as doing so will help your dog feel like they can relax too.
3. Create a Safe Place
Don't underestimate the power of your touch. Holding your dog or wrapping them in a blanket or towel will provide soothing pressure that reassures them that they're safe. Consider purchasing a Thundershirt to apply constant soothing pressure and help alleviate stress.
Also, you might try putting your pup's crate or bed in the most soundproof room you can find so that if they want to rest, they'll feel safe. It's also a good idea to close all blinds and curtains to shelter your dog from the visual stimulation of lightning.
4. Drown out the Noise
Compete with the roaring wind and grumbling thunder by creating your own noise. Turn on the radio or, better yet, stream dog-calming music or white noise to drown out the storm. Talking to your pet isn't a bad idea, either. Any calming sound other than the storm outside will help quiet their fears.
5. Feed Them Calming Treats
Many health food and pet supply stores now offer products that help alleviate anxiety by mimicking dog pheromones. Others contain natural calming extracts like lavender and chamomile. CBD treats for dogs are also a viable option for reducing stress — try applying oil or giving them a soft chew with hemp. And if these treats aren't working, you can always consult your veterinarian to find a better solution, like prescription medications.
Calm Your Dog for Good
The best way to calm your dog for good is to help them overcome their fear of thunderstorms altogether. You can do so by slowly desensitizing them to storm sounds. Play thunderstorm tracks while your dog is experiencing a fun activity like eating treats or playing fetch to help them associate the sounds of rain and thunder with good things. Over time, this process should help them overcome their phobia of thunderstorms and all the chaos that goes along with them.
In the meantime, do what you can to calm their fears. Let them know you're there with them and, if nothing else, you'll weather the storm together.