Does your dog act like it’s the end of the world every time there’s a thunderstorm? Do they run and hide every time they hear thunder? This reaction is an involuntary fear response, which makes eradicating it completely very difficult. Fortunately, however, there are ways to minimize this behavior and lessen your dog’s fear.
Use behavioral control during a storm.
Do something fun with your dog.
The best way to change your dog’s fearful behavior is to distract them with an activity that they enjoy. What is your dog’s favorite thing to do? Maybe it’s tugging on a toy or playing ball. Whatever it is, try doing it during a thunderstorm.
If the dog behaves well and responds to commands correctly, this is a good time to give him a treat. This will reinforce good behavior and not bad behavior.
Give your dog an object to release stress on during a storm.
If the dog breaks things out of fear during a storm, then give him something to focus his destructive attention on. It could be a stuffed animal, a chew toy, or a rawhide bone. Whatever you give the dog, try to make it something that will attract his attention and allow him to focus his nervous energy.
Don’t focus all your energy on comforting the dog.
Don’t hug them or act as their protector. This doesn’t mean you can’t pet them, give them a little comfort, or treat him kindly as usual. Just don’t act as if they has something to fear. If you do, they will assume that protection is necessary.
Also, if you act as if your dog needs protection, they will assume that you are available to protect them whenever they gets nervous or afraid. This can lead to an escalation of the misbehavior. If they learns that hiding in a corner during bad weather leads to hugs and kisses from you, they may become accustomed to doing this during every storm.
- Some animal behaviorists disagree with the idea of not comforting a distressed dog. They say you should comfort him in any way you can. This consolation should be combined with redirection in order to distract the dog from the fear.
Don’t scold your dog for being afraid during a storm.
Just as you shouldn’t comfort them too much, you shouldn’t punish them for being scared. This will only give them another reason to be afraid. Remember that fear is an involuntary reaction.
Instead, go about your normal routine and act as if everything is fine. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the dog, just that you should interact with them as usual.
Ignoring the thunder and lightning, as well as the dog’s nervousness and fear, will eventually cause them to learn that he has nothing to fear. However, accomplishing this can be difficult, as the dog’s behavior in the moment can be erratic and fearful.
Desensitize your dog to loud noises.
A dog that has extreme reactions to loud noises may respond to gradual desensitization. This means that you should expose the dog to a variety of noises, gradually increasing the volume so that they become accustomed to them.
There are CDs you can buy that produce the noises of a thunderstorm. Play them at various times during the day at a very low volume at first. Increase the volume higher and higher until the dog gets used to it. This method will only partially desensitize the dog, as there are also electrical discharges in a thunderstorm that a CD cannot reproduce.
- Expose a young dog to a variety of noises from an early age. If the dog is very young and experiencing a storm for the first time, it will be easier to keep them calm if they are already used to a variety of noises.
Control the environment
Block out as much noise and light as possible.
Minimizing the amount of storm the dog experiences can reduce his discomfort. Close the curtains, especially if you have blackout curtains, and move the dog to a room in the house where they cannot hear the thunder well.
Taking this measure in addition to distracting the dog with a favorite toy or game can really alleviate the fear response.
- Drown out the impact of the storm. For example, if your dog is afraid of lightning, try turning on a light in the room they are in. This will reduce the impact of the lightning.
- Play music or some other type of noise to drown out the noise of the thunder. If the dog can’t hear it very well, he is likely to be less afraid
Give the dog a safe space to hide in.
This can be a crate or under the covers of your bed. Dogs naturally look for a den to hide in, so give them that space.
- If the dog gets into his crate, consider covering it with a blanket to further muffle the sounds of the storm.
- Make sure they can get into their den without your help. This will allow them to have this shelter whether you are home or not.
Put a body wrap on your dog.
There are several products on the market that are basically coats for the dog. These wraps put light pressure on the dog’s body, which calms the dog down to a great extent.
- Soothing body wraps are sold at most pet stores and online. If you buy one, make sure it is the right size for the dog.
Use dryer sheets to remove static from your dog’s coat.
It may sound strange, but many dogs don’t like lightning because it creates static in their fur. Rubbing the dog with a dryer sheet will make the uncomfortable feelings go away. It may even help the dog go back to sleep if it wakes up because of the storm.
- Don’t let the dog chew on the dryer sheets. Once you rub them on his coat, put them away from the dog. It can make them seriously ill.