Expert Tips on Dogs and Thunderstorm Anxiety

Is your dog frightened by thunderstorms?

Guest columnist Wendy Nan Rees offers tips for dealing with dogs that suffer from thunderstorm anxiety. If your pet runs for cover every time a storm blows up, here's what you can do to make it less frightening.

Thunderstorm Anxiety

With summer come the inevitable thunderstorms. Thankfully, these loud, flashy storms don't seem to give some dogs a moment's pause. However, some pets are really affected by the violent weather, and this can lead to a lot of stress-induced behaviors you wouldn't normally find in your pet.

Here are the three P's commonly associated with thunderstorm anxiety.

  • Panting: Panting is one of the first ways that a dog shows stress, and you may even notice that the panting begins a while before the storm actually arrives. Dogs seem more attuned to changes in the atmosphere, and they pick up on the dropping pressure right away.
  • Pacing: Pacing and other forms of restless behavior like whining, pawing and hiding under the furniture are all signs your dog is experiencing stress, and you'll likely notice they ramp up once the storm is in full swing.
  • Pooping: This is one of the more severe signs of storm-induced stress, and this often isn't a run-of-the-mill house accident. It usually takes place in a very inappropriate area such as on the furniture or in your bed or bedroom. The main reason for this is that these areas retain even more of your scent, and your frantic dog is drawn to it to leave you a very drastic warning that he feels unsafe.

An especially stormy stretch of weather may bring on even more stress symptoms such as a loss of appetite, hair loss and excessive sleeping and/or moping.

How to Help Your Dog

You may not be able to alleviate all of your dog's anxiety during storms, but there a few measures you can take to help relieve some of the stress.

  • First and most importantly, never leave your dog outside during a thunderstorm. Whether your dog is frightened of storms or not, it is a dangerous situation that no pet should be left outside to endure.
  • You can block out lightening flashes by calmly drawing the curtains. By limiting what your dog can see of the storm, you can at least reduce that much extra stress.
  • Now it's time to buffer the sound of the thunder. You can do this by turning on the television or radio and adjusting the volume just high enough to drown out most of the noise outside. Be careful to select something calming like classical music so you aren't producing more stress in your dog.
  • Finally, try to act as normally as possible. It's only natural to want to hug and baby your dog when he's obviously upset, but by doing this you're only reinforcing your dog's fears by confirming his feeling that something is wrong.

Reduce Stress on Your Pet

Of course, you can't stop thunderstorms from coming, but you can try to make these events less stressful for your pets. Hopefully these tips will help you and your own dogs make it through storm season.

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Expert Tips on Dogs and Thunderstorm Anxiety