Storm phobia is a very common problem among dogs. Due to the canines’ heightened senses, they easily get scared of the sound of thunder, strong winds, and rain. This will make the dog stressed and anxious, which can lead to accidents all over the house. While it can be challenging for pet owners, there are effective ways on how to calm a dog down during a storm.
Take note that each dog is different. Others can remain calm in the middle of a hurricane while there are canines who will jump on the slightest whistle of the wind.
Understanding that this reaction is normal is key to helping your dog. Below, I also discussed 8 effective ways that will keep your storm-weary doggo calm.
Why do dogs freak out on thunderstorms?
The storm season is probably the most hated time among dogs and many pet owners alike. It’s an anxiety-inducing period and we can’t help but wonder, why do dogs freak out during storms?
First of all, thunderstorms are loud, which will drive noise-averse canines crazy. Some dogs also have an intense phobia with the sound of thunder that they will cry and run around the house.
Aside from the audible aspect, thunderstorms also increase static buildup on the dog’s fur. Large breeds with double coats are more affected. It’s similar to how you’ll get shocked when wearing a wool sweater and opening the car door.
This shock among dogs gets worse when they touch metal surfaces. It can range from a mild discomfort into a full-on nervous meltdown.
Lastly, a canine’s strong sniffers can smell changes in the environment. Over time, your dog will learn that once the surroundings develop a certain smell, thunder will follow. This could explain why some canines get panicky even before the thunderstorm breaks.
How to calm a dog down during a storm
Always remember that storms are stressful to your dog as much as it is to you. This is why you should always include your pets when planning for an incoming storm.
If your pet gets anxious and scared during hurricanes and storms, the following steps will be a big help:
🐶Consider using a ThunderShirt
ThunderShirt is a jacket designed to calm dogs during thunderstorms and other stressful situations. It has a swaddling effect, which applies constant but gentle pressure on the canine’s body. This is believed to be soothing for canines.
However, you should know that not all dogs respond positively to ThunderShirts. Some dogs are so anxious that the mild soothing effect of this shirt no longer works.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to try it on your dog. It’s a medication-free option, but results vary widely. Just make sure that you get the right size to ensure that it’s snug enough but not too tight.
🐶Keep your dog in an enclosed room
During a thunderstorm, you should bring your dog to the quietest room in your house. This will help reduce the anxiety due to thunder.
You should make the room as calm as possible. Always close the door and bring all your dog’s belongings. This includes the canine’s bed, toys, food, and so on. This will help create a sense of familiarity and security.
🐶Consult the vet for calming aids
If your dog has a chronic case of storm phobia, you can ask the vet for a calming aid prescription. This can be anything from over-the-counter antihistamines or specific medications that need to be administered at a pre-determined dose.
Remember that you should never use any sedative on your pet unless it’s approved by the vet. Also, try to explore natural calming solutions before considering pharmaceuticals.
Another effective solution for storm-scared canines is artificial pheromone. This mimics the scent mother dogs release, which will make dogs calm. For this to be effective, the diffuser must be on for at least one to two days before the storm hits.
🐶Distract your dog
Aside from the mentioned tips above, you should also keep your dog distracted. You can initiate playtime, training drills, and other activities that will keep your pet’s mind off the storm.
You can also brush your dog’s hair or toss a few treats. This is also the perfect time to give high-value treats like bones and dental chews. Of course, the latter should be done under your close supervision to avoid choking.
🐶Drown the noise of the storm
You can also drown the noise of the thunderstorm by playing soothing music. There are a ton of this music on YouTube that you can play for free.
If the thunder is louder than your music, you can try putting headphones on to your dog. Just make sure that the volume isn’t too high since dogs have a loud sense of hearing. Through this, your canine won’t suffer from sound-induced anxiety.
Other canines respond better to white noise in the background. This could be your television, radio, or simply a white noise machine. Experiment with these options and see which one your dog prefers.
🐶Stay on your dog’s side
Your presence matters a lot for an anxious dog. It’s best to stay by your dog’s side until the storm subsides.
If you can’t be personally around, you can place one of your used shirts as a liner to your dog’s bed. You can also leave some of your used clothes around the room, so your dog can pick up your scent.
As much as possible, you shouldn’t leave your dog alone during a storm. Aside from anxiety, you may need to evacuate your dog in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.
🐶Utilize the crate
Your dog’s crate comes in handy during storms. The crate provides a safe retreat where your dog feels safe as thunder and lightning rumble in the sky.
As mentioned earlier, you should bring your dog’s crate to a quiet room. You should also place your dog’s toys inside to encourage it to come in. Pair that with the other tips above and you can help your dog tone down its storm phobia.
🐶Desensitize your dog
Lastly, it’s crucial to desensitize your dog from storms. This will prevent future bouts with anxiety, especially if you live in a storm-prone area.
To desensitize your dog to storm sounds, you can play thunder recordings at a low volume. While playing this, provide treats and playtime to your pet.
This will create a positive association with the sound. Slowly increase the volume bit by bit to strengthen your dog’s tolerance of thunder.
Overall, this process needs months to achieve. Aside from thunder, you can also desensitize your dog to the sound of heavy rains and strong winds. You just have to be patient and your dog will soon outgrow its storm phobia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is my dog panting during a thunderstorm?
A: Many canines aren’t fond of thunder and lightning. This will make them nervous, which will result in panting, whining, and even accidents all over the house. Take note that these are signs of anxiety and you need to help your dog calm down. Otherwise, your pet will suffer from unnecessary stress.
Q: Can thunder hurt dogs?
A: Thunder won’t physically hurt canines, but the loud sound that triggers anxiety is the main concern. Canines are known to have aversion to loud sounds. It can be a big problem for both the dog and the owner, especially if the canine is yet to be trained or desensitized.
Q: What is the most calming place to pet a dog?
A: Dogs feel calm when they are stroked on their shoulders, chest, ears, and the base of the neck. Make sure that you pet your dog slowly and gently instead of a scratch-like motion. Also, some dogs may have different preferences when it comes to this, so always observe your dog’s body language.
Q: Do dogs have pressure points to calm them down?
A: Dogs have three acupressure points, which can be used to help calm them down. These are located at the back of the head and the base of the canine’s skill. Specifically, the spots are in the indentations you’ll see behind your pet’s ears.
Q: Can dogs outgrow their fear of storms?
A: Many dogs get to outgrow their storm phobia through proper desensitization. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that fear depends on a few factors, including the canine’s genetics. This explains why some dogs are tolerant of storms while others get very nervous.
Knowing how to calm a dog down during a storm will save your pet from stress and fear. It’s important to include your dog when preparing for a storm, so you can anticipate potential problems.
Overall, there are many options for you to explore to help calm your dog. You can always consult the veterinarian if you have questions or concerns.