Many dog owners know the signs. The sky begins to darken and along with it your dog starts pacing, panting, and whining. Fear of thunderstorms is very common among dogs, but this doesn’t make it any less distressing to pups and their owners.
The fear of thunder in dogs comes down to their heightened senses. Dogs have incredible hearing and are sensitive to loud noises in general, having the ability to detect thunder before humans can hear it. Additionally, the changes storms create in air pressure and smell are also recognizable by dogs. Your pup will know a storm is coming before you do so it’s important to know how they express stress. Signs of stress in dogs can include behaviors such as panting, excessive licking, pacing, yawning, whining, hiding, increased salivation, and destroying things.
It can be incredibly hard to watch your furry friend begin to stress at the first signs of a thunderstorm, so read on to learn more about how you can keep your dog calm during one.
Know Your Dog's Safe Place
Dogs usually have a safe place they go to when they are afraid, so having this space available to them during storms will help their anxiety. This safe spot is usually indoors, small, and closed in as these standards help them feel they are not exposed to danger. For example, some dogs like hiding in a bathroom, under a bed, in a closet, or in their crate.
It’s important to note that you should never fully close or lock your dog into their safe space as they become greatly stressed at not having an escape. In their panic, they can start destroying things to get out and may end up injuring themselves badly.
Have Toys & Comforting Objects Available
While dogs naturally will find a secure spot for them to hide and feel safe, you can take steps to help them feel more at ease in this space. If your dog hides in their crate, you can put a blanket over the cage to further comfort them and add an additional sound barrier. Furthermore, adding things like your dog’s water bowl, bed, toys, a blanket, and music to this space can bring them more comfort and distraction.
If you are able, don’t leave your dog alone and hang out with them in the room they’re in. Your dog will feel more secure with you there and you can keep them distracted by playing with them or giving them toys to keep them busy.
Play Background Noise
Having noise playing in the background can help distract and soothe your dog during a storm. Turning on the TV, playing music, having white noise on, and talking calmly to your dog are all ways you can help reduce their stress. There are even calming playlists created for dogs like Spotify’s pet playlist creator! Make sure the background noise you have on isn’t overly loud and excitable as this can have the opposite effect and make your dog more worked up.
Pet Wrap Products
Pet wrap products like ThunderShirt, Storm Defender, Anxiety Wrap, and Happy Hoodie can all provide comfort to a dog scared of storms. (Side note: The Happy Hoodie is even frequently used by groomers to keep dogs calm while blowdrying their coats!) Similar to swaddling a baby, these wraps soothe dogs through comforting pressure. Additionally, if you find yourself with an anxious dog and no pet wrap, you can DIY your own calming wrap!
Pheromone Diffusers & CBD Oil
Dog pheromone products like diffusers, plugins, sprays, and collars can be very beneficial in calming an anxious dog. These products work by recreating feelings of safety dogs received from their mothers as puppies. The various forms of pheromone products make it easy to find which method works best for you and your dog. That being said, make sure the product you pick up is for dogs as other animal pheromone products will be ineffective for them.
Furthermore, THC-free CBD oil can also work fast to keep dogs calm and are widely available in oil and treat form. CBD is known to be safe for dogs, but checking with your dog’s veterinarian before administering something new is always a good idea, especially if your dog is already on medication. In addition to calming your dog, CBD oil has a history of being used by dog owners to reduce pain and seizures.
Please note that while pheromone products and CBD oil are safe for dogs, essential oils are not. You should not diffuse or apply essential oils as these are very harmful to animals and can cause sickness and death.
Work on Desensitization
You can help your dog calmly endure future storms through desensitization. This can be done through a gradual process of playing storm sound effects. You want to help your dog raise their tolerance for thunder while still being patient and careful. You should not start out by playing loud thunder sounds but instead, depending on your dog’s anxiety level, can start out with rain sounds. After your dog becomes used to these sounds, move on to soft thunder and so on.
It’s important to realize this is a gradual process and not something you can just put on loudly in the background. If your dog begins showing signs of fear from the thunder playing, you should turn it off right away. You can then go back to a quieter version of the sounds and continue working up to the next stage. Be patient and understand that desensitizing a dog to thunder and other loud noises can take months. Just like Rome, your dog’s desensitization will not be built in a day.
While your dog’s thunderstorm anxiety may never truly disappear, you can help them reach a point where they are able to be calmer and less anxious. If your dog’s anxiety remains severe, seeking professional help from a veterinarian can aid you in determining if medication is right for your dog.
Remember that fear is a natural feeling. Your pet should not be chastised or punished for the way they express fear. When you remain calm, it helps your dog remain calm. Overall, each dog is different so you may need to try out various calming techniques and products before finding the ones that work for you and your pup.