How to Treat Dogs Scared of Thunderstorms
I LOVE summertime, with the sunshine and outdoor time, but one thing I HATE about the season is thunderstorms. They’re the worst! And I know I’m not alone in thinking that. Lots of dogs like me are scared of thunderstorms, and will whine, pace, or hide out when one is happening.
If your dog is a fraidy cat too, here are some things you can do to help them get through the storm with less stress.
Provide a place to feel safe
Your dog will feel less anxious if they’re in a place that’s comforting and familiar. A crate they use regularly or their dog bed work best. (A Cozy Cave, which is a dog bed that lets your dog curl up inside for extra comfort, is a great choice!) You can even move it to a different room for the duration, like a bathroom, the laundry room, or even a closet, as dogs tend to seek these smaller spaces when stressed. Keep the door open so your dog doesn’t feel trapped!
Get a ThunderShirt or other anxiety vest
Gentle pressure is soothing to dogs, which is the theory behind the ThunderShirt, a well-known type of anxiety vest for dogs. Lots of dogs swear by them! The fabric is wrapped tightly to provide the sensation of being held closely, which is very soothing. If you don’t have a ThunderShirt on hand when the storm starts, you can fashion your own out of a long Ace bandage or a t-shirt.
Not just any music, but music composed specifically to calm dogs when they’re anxious. You can find CDs online or even tracks to listen to for free on YouTube. This won’t work for all dogs but it’s a simple and easy trick to try and it might work for your dog.
Grab a dryer sheet
Dryer sheets to the rescue! One theory about why dogs hate thunderstorms is that the static electricity causes an irritating tingling in their fur. (This might be why dogs like to go to bathrooms – and perhaps even inside the tub – or basements to ride out the storm, as they feel the effects of the static electricity less there.) Rubbing a dryer sheet may help reduce the static electricity, as it does with clothing, and make your dog less comfortable. There’s no consensus on whether this works, but if you have a dog with long fur, like me, it can’t hurt to try.
Ask your vet about medication
For some dogs, like me, a thunderstorm is nothing more than anxiety provoking. For other dogs, a storm can trigger a full-blown panic attack that can lead to unsafe behavior, like chewing through doors, leaping fences, running away, and more. If your dog displays this kind of behavior that goes beyond some pacing and whining, talk to your vet about the possibility of anti-anxiety meds or sedatives.
Don’t reward clingy behavior
Finally, this might be the toughest of all. When your dog is upset, you may want to immediately comfort them. Dog trainers say this can inadvertently make the situation worse, though, as it essentially trains your dog to whine, pace, or display other unwanted behaviors. Instead, they say that it’s best to acknowledge your dog (don’t ignore them!) but not indulge them. Instead, try the other items on this list to reduce their anxiety in the first place.
And just remember – storms are scary but they don’t last! – Kia
Kia is a full-sized dog living with a full-sized family! She's full of energy and loves to romp with kids, so whenever Kia is around, you know you're in for an exciting time!