Dogs experiencing thunderstorm anxiety can be difficult to handle. Not only are they hard to manage, but it can also be stressful to see them so anxious. If your pet runs for cover every time a storm blows in, knowing what to do to make them less frightened could make your life - and theirs - much easier.
Help Your Dog Stay Calm During Thunderstorms
You may not be able to alleviate all of your dog's anxiety during storms, but there are a few measures you can take to help relieve some of the stress.
- Bring them inside: 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.
- Block the outdoors: You can block out lightning flashes by calmly drawing the curtains. By limiting what your dog can see of the storm, you can at least reduce that extra stress.
- Buffer the sound: Now it's time to address the sound of the thunder. Turn your television or radio on and adjust the volume just high enough to drown out most of the noise outside.
- Play music: Be careful to select something calming, such as classical music, so you aren't producing more stress in your dog.
- Act normal: Try to act as normal. It's only natural to want to hug and baby your dog when they're obviously upset, but this only reinforces your dog's fears and rewards their anxiety.
- Make a safe space: Provide your dog with a quiet, secure space, such as a closet or bedroom they're comfortable in. If your dog has a crate, make sure they have access to it throughout the storm.
- Watch a movie: If you can, lie down and watch a movie or television with your dog. They will find comfort in being near you, and the television will drown out the sound.
- Offer a supplement: Supplements, such as full-spectrum CBD, can help your dog relax during stressful times.
- Give some playtime: Redirecting your dog's attention could be enough to calm them during thunderstorms, especially if the thunder isn't too loud.
- Never punish them: Your dog should never be scolded or punished for being afraid. This could make their fear stronger, and they will correlate thunderstorms with negativity.
If you're calm, your dog is more likely to be calm. Dogs can read our emotions, and they tend to follow our lead.
Why Thunderstorms Stress Dogs Out
With summer come the inevitable thunderstorms. Thankfully, these loud, flashy storms don't seem to give some dogs a moment's pause. Other pups suffer tremendous bouts of anxiety when thunderstorms roll in.
The primary culprit that's driving your dog crazy is the loud noise these storms make. Anecdotal reports suggest that static electricity buildup during thunderstorms irritates some dogs, but there's no conclusive evidence this is what's upsetting your dog. It's also possible changes in barometric pressure alert your dog to a coming storm, but thunder's booming echo is probably what's scaring them, just like with fireworks.
Symptoms of Thunderstorm Anxiety in Your Dog
Every dog is different. Some go ballistic when they hear a crack of thunder. Others experience a quiet anxiety, where they almost seem to be paralyzed. Some dogs bark like crazy, and others hide away. All of these stress behaviors indicate something is up with your dog.
- Panting: Excessive 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 may pick up on the dropping pressure right away.
- Pacing: Pacing and other forms of restless behavior, such as whining and pawing, 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.
- Hiding: If your dog dives under the bed when they hear a boom, they probably have thunderstorm anxiety. But it may not be so obvious. If you notice that your dog disappears whenever a storm rolls in, you might need to figure out how to calm them down.
- Barking: Does your pup go off when they hear thunder? If they can't stop barking the moment they hear the sound, it's a good bet you're dealing with a stress reaction.
An especially stormy stretch of weather may bring on even more stress symptoms, such as a loss of appetite, hair loss due to excessive chewing, and excessive sleeping or moping.
Using an Anxiety Wrap
Some dogs benefit from an anxiety wrap before, during, and after a thunderstorm. First, ensure you have an anxiety wrap specifically designed for dogs, which you can easily purchase online or from your local pet store. The wrap should be the right size for your dog, fitting snugly but comfortably around their torso.
Before the thunderstorm starts, gently put the wrap on your dog, following the instructions provided with the product. The wrap should apply a constant, gentle pressure on your dog's body, imitating the feeling of being hugged or swaddled.
The theory behind this is that it triggers a calming effect in the nervous system and can help reduce your dog's anxiety. In our experience, these wraps work wonders for some dogs, while other dogs don't respond as much (or just don't like wearing clothing at all). It just depends on your dog.
Be sure to use the wrap on clear days first, so your dog doesn't associate it with something negative. Reassure your dog with soothing tones and positive reinforcement while using the wrap. It may or may not work for your dog, but an anxiety wrap is definitely worth a try.
The wrap doesn't replace the need for comfort and reassurance from you, but it can help during times of stress.
Reduce Your Dog's Stress to Help Them Cope
Of course, you can't stop thunderstorms from coming. However, you can try to make these events less stressful for your dog. Hopefully, these tips will help you and your own dogs make it through storm season without too much anxiety. As you provide your dog support and a safe environment, they may also learn to overcome their fear over time.