Not all dogs are accustomed to thunderstorms - or to any loud booming sounds, for that matter. If your dog has an aversive reaction to thunderstorms, you are not alone. Dogs can exhibit any of the following reactions:
- Trembling or shaking
- Excessive barking
Getting your dog accustomed to the occasional thunderstorm or loud noise should have started when she was still a puppy. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen all the time. If your dog has not been desensitized to thunderstorms, then you should at least be able to calm him down.
- Distract your dog. Try to get your dog’s mind away from the loud noise. Play with her using one of her favorite chew toys. Do some fun activities inside the house. You can reassure her that everything is fine but no need to cuddle her or stroke her continuously. Never baby a dog because this reassures her fear. Just act like everything is normal.
- Make sure her crate is available to her. The crate is your dog’s own personal retreat where she can run and hide during a thunderstorm. Cover her crate with a blanket for extra comfort. Be sure to keep the crate gate unlocked in case your dog feels the need to get out.
- Keep calm. Act like the thunderstorm is not a big deal. Never overreact to an overacting dog. The calmer you are, the calmer the dog will be. Don’t yell, shout or scold your dog. This will just increase his level of fear, anxiety and insecurity.
- Ask your vet for anti-anxiety medication. There are anti-anxiety medicines for dogs that help relieve some of their stress. This is most helpful when given before you expect loud noises to occur, like during fireworks displays on July 4 celebrations. Some vets may prescribe sedatives for extreme cases.
- Mask sounds coming from outside. If your dog is used to the sound of the television set, you can increase the volume during thunderstorms. This will help lessen the sound coming from outside the house. Instead, she will hear sounds that are more familiar to her.
- Close the curtains. Block out the lightning as well as the view of the rain outside by closing the blinds or curtains.
- Use D.A.P., or Dog Appeasing Pheromones. This is a type of spray that has the same attributes as the pheromones that a mother dog releases in order to calm as well as soothe her litter. For in-home use, there is a convenient plug-in type of D.A.P. You can also find a D.A.P. collar for your dog.
If your dog suffers not only from fear of thunderstorms but is also afraid of any loud noises, you may want to consider desensitization training. Reconditioning a dog to accept loud noises like thunder is a slow process. While being massaged or during play, the dog is exposed to the recording of the sound of a storm at a low volume. As she becomes accustomed to the sound, the volume is gradually increased. This does not work for all dogs, but it may be worth a try.
Dogs’ ears are highly sensitive and some dogs find it really difficult to cope with booming sounds. If your dog is freaked out by thunderstorms or loud noises, be patient and understanding. Remember that she is experiencing a lot of stress and doesn’t need more stress coming from you.