Tips for Overcoming Your Dog's Thunderstorm Fears

Many of our clients have called us to ask for help with their dog's thunderstorm fears. Here are some quick tips that may help alleviate, or lessen, your pet's thunderstorm fear:

Develop a retraining program with your veterinarian at Animal Hospital of North Asheville to desensitize your dog to storms. This can include playing a soft tape with recorded thunder and rewarding your dog with treats when he/she exhibits no anxiety. Over time, the intensity of the storm music may be increased and only calm behavior rewarded. Use caution – introducing stimuli too quickly can actually increase the phobia!

If retraining does not work, consider asking your veterinarian for anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication to help keep your dog calm during storms.

Try padding a crate with blankets or clearing a "safe place" under a bed where your dog can seek comforting shelter. Make sure it is a place your pet can get into and out of easily.

Make sure YOU remain calm when your dog is fearful. This can increase your pet’s sense of security.

Do not cuddle or reassure your dog when it storms. Rewarding fearful behavior can reinforce it. However, it is important that you never punish or scold your dog for being fearful either. Just remain calm and provide a safe familiar place where your dog can securely ride out the storm.

The families of some pets have found that creating "white noise" during a storm can help their pets. This is noise such as running an electric fan or playing the television that blocks out the storm noise and distracts your dog.

Increasing exercise on days when storms are expected can tire out your dog and make it less aware of storm noise. In addition, the added exercise increases natural serotonin levels that can calm your pet.

Be sure to bring your dog inside at the first sign of a storm to lessen anxiety. Stay with your pet while it is inside because the anxiety of the storm can cause some dogs to become destructive. Your presence will help keep your pet calm.

Comments

One of my Norfolk Terriers, Gretchen , is very afraid of storms. I have found the thunder shirt very helpful. When we sense a storm upcoming, she goes with me to get her thunder shirt on, and then is pretty calm during the storm. She used to shake and hide, but the thunder shirt has helped her a lot.

Ann, we are so pleased that Gretchen is helped by the Thundershirt. It really is an essential item for so many households with dogs who are anxious during thunderstorms.

I got my dog, Cinnamon, a thundershirt as well and she is much calmer when it is storming. She is still afraid and still shakes some, but not like she does before I put the shirt on her. It has helped her a lot.

Thundershirts really are a wonderful and simple solution. (We love the name Cinnamon!)

We have used the storm/thunder tapes to desensitize Zoe, who was extremely thunder phobic. And it absolutely worked with her. We began very gradually with the storm on very softly in the background and played her favorite games with her when she began to become afraid; then gradually over several weeks increased the volume of the storm while playing. Zoe still has some fear during a real storm, but the biggest problem we face now: she thinks thunder means PLAY...at 2 am in the morning!!! :)

Our Jack Russell does not hide and shake and get nervous, she just barks at the Thunder and tries to chase it. Sorry to say the Thundershirt does not work for her. Any other suggestions?

Have you tried covering up the sound of thunder with white noise?

This year I used a combination of Adaptil spray, Thundershirt, white noise, and Composure calming treats. This past summer was the calmest my Barley has ever been during storms and fireworks! It worked best if I could get everything on board before any signs of storms began.

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