There’s something calming and romantic about a thunderstorm. The rain gently falling on your roof, the lightning sizzling through the sky, and of course, the occasional deep rumbles and loud cracks of thunder to remind you that Mother Nature is putting on a show.
That’s all unless you’re a dog, of course — then everything above becomes absolutely terrifying. If your pup starts trembling or makes a beeline for their nearest hiding place every time a thunderstorm hits, you’ll likely want to find a way to keep them calm and collected during inclement weather.
The ideas below have all been shown to have success soothing and reassuring scared pups, so go ahead and try them the next time that the forecast calls for rain. We’re quite sure that your pooch will thank you.
1. Give Them a Safe Place to Hide
Dogs will instinctively look for shelter when they’re frightened, and they’re especially fond of any place that resembles a deep, dark cave. That’s why they can often be found deep in your closet or worming their way under your bed.
You can play to these instincts by creating a warm, dark spot for them to curl up in while they ride out the storm. A crate is the easiest and most obvious answer, but if your dog refuses to go inside, you can try to make a designated spot in your house as inviting as possible. Pillow or mattress forts are especially good for this, and the best part is that you can invite yourself in to snuggle with your pooch.
2. Drown Out the Noise
If the loud claps are what send your dog into a tizzy, you can try to drown them out with noise of your own. White noise is a good choice, as it’s gentle and reassuring, and you can make it quite loud without it being overbearing.
There are also special playlists that you can find on Spotify and YouTube that have tracks designed to calm frightened dogs. Your cable provider may even offer DogTV, a channel that sets calming music over reassuring scenes designed to captivate canines; switching to that channel may be all that your dog needs to reassure themselves.
3. Put On an Anxiety Jacket
Anxiety jackets or wraps are special garments that are designed to put constant, gentle pressure on your dog’s torso, with special emphasis on their chest. This can help slow their heart rate, and that can stave off full-blown panic attacks.
The most well-known brand is the ThunderShirt, but there are several options out there. The most important thing is finding the proper fit; you want it to be snug without cutting off circulation. These jackets can help during thunderstorms, firework displays, vet visits, and anything else that causes your dog’s blood pressure to spike.
4. Create a Calming Atmosphere
This goes hand in hand with creating a safe haven and offering gentle noise to compete with the thunder. Your dog will need all the love and attention that they can get from you at this point, so sit with them and offer them gentle pettings or even a massage. A good snuggle can help calm them as much as anything.
You may also try using essential oils to fill your home with a calming aroma. However, there’s not much scientific evidence behind these — all their support comes from anecdotal evidence. Still, it may be worth a shot, as they certainly won’t hurt your dog (unless they get ingested, of course).
5. Distract Them
Affection is sure to distract your dog, but it’s not your only option. If your dog is still willing to play, then a game of fetch or tug-of-war will help get their mind off what’s happening outside. As a bonus, bleeding off excess energy will reduce their overall anxiety.
Some dogs prefer to gnaw on things when they’re anxious. You can offer them a chew toy or a frozen KONG filled with peanut butter. That allows them to channel all their nervous energy into chomping on something rather than pacing and trembling.
6. Pair Them Up With a Calm Buddy
If you or a friend have a dog that isn’t bothered by thunderstorms, then having them around for moral support may help. You can try playing with the non-reactive dog, as this may tempt the frightened pup into joining in and forgetting their troubles.
Also, the mere presence of a calm compatriot can go a long way toward helping your dog settle. They can sense and draw off the other dog’s energy, which may convince them that there’s nothing to worry about.
7. Try Medication
If your dog’s anxiety is really bad and nothing else has worked, a trip to the vet might be in order. Their doctor can prescribe them anti-anxiety medications or even a sedative, and that can help them settle down a bit so they can ride out the storm in peace.
Many owners balk at the idea of medicating their dogs in such a manner, but as long as you do it sparingly, it may be more humane than letting them suffer.
8. Start a Desensitization Program
You can’t do this in the middle of a storm, but once the weather’s calmed down again, try to desensitize your dog to all the triggers that they experienced. You can do this by buying a CD with thunder sounds on it or trying to find something similar on Spotify or YouTube.
Then, play the thunder noises at a low volume while you pet and reassure your dog or offer them treats. As they get to the point that they can ignore the sounds at low volume, slowly turn the sounds up until they’re as loud as actual thunder. If you do this properly, your dog may get over their thunder phobia completely.
What NOT to Do
Knowing what tactics you should never use is almost as important as knowing the proper way to manage a fearful dog.
Below are a few things that you should never do if you have a dog with an aversion to thunderstorms:
Survive the Next Thunderstorm in One Piece
Helping your dog overcome a phobia of thunder isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, but it is possible. If you follow the steps above, you can have your dog handling the next thunderstorm like a champ.
If anything, they might be able to provide reassurance if you’re the one cowering under the bed the next time the sky erupts in thunder.
Featured Image Credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock