Fear of thunderstorms is a common problem for many dogs.Common signs of thunderstorm fear include hiding, shaking, trembling, crying or whining, pacing, drooling, urinating/defecating, panting, or trying to escape from the house. Thunderstorm phobia can affect dogs of any age and we may never fully understand why some dogs react more strongly than others. Dogs with separation anxiety appear even more likely to develop storm phobia.
Some dogs will display signs of fear or anxiety before obvious thunder which may indicate they can sense changes in barometric pressure, darkening clouds, humidity alterations, increasing wind, lightning, or the sound or smell of rain.
Helping to reduce your dog’s thunderstorm anxiety is best accomplished with a multi-modal approach. Some common ways to reduce thunderstorm anxiety include:
- Minimizing the stimuli from the storm to limit your dog’s exposure to it. This can be accomplished by closing the blinds/curtains, keeping your pet in an interior room to muffle the sounds of thunder, and playing soft classical music or turning on a box fan. Some dogs may like to have access to a crate covered with a blanket, but the dog should not be locked in the crate because it may feel trapped. Other dogs may want to hide in a closet or bathroom and can be allowed to do this.
- It is ok to comfort and pet your dog if he/she is anxious, but remember to remain calm during your interactions and do not restrain or hold your pet too tightly because they could feel trapped. If you are overly anxious your pet may detect your anxiety and become more scared.
- Sometimes playing with your pet can be an effective distraction from the storm. This can also serve as an outlet for some of the nervous energy he/she is feeling.
- A high-value treat or toy can also be a distraction, some options include a toy with frozen peanut butter inside, a dental chew, or a treat-dispensing toy.
- Snug body wraps may help to keep your dog relaxed. Ear muffs or head phones can decrease the storm noises.
- Aromatherapy (lavender and/or chamomile) and pheromone therapy (Adaptil/D.A.P) can help to lessen anxiety during storms.
- Do not punish, lock up, or yell at your pet for being afraid during a storm. If he/she is destructive or has inappropriate urination/defecation during a storm, it’s because he/she is afraid and yelling at or punishing them may worsen the storm phobia.
- Discuss your dog’s storm phobia with their vet, medications to reduce noise-induced anxiety are available.