Thunderstorms are a common fear in humans, so it’s no wonder why some dogs are so scared of them.  Storm anxiety affects many dogs and can be really concerning—especially if the animal begins to destroy furniture, bark excessively or harm himself (or people). 

If your dog suffers from storm anxiety you’ve probably wondered why this happens and how to calm a dog in a thunderstorm. The reason why thunderstorms can cause such distress in canines is because they can hear it at a much greater distance than humans can.  Dogs can also detect storms at an earlier time because the smell of the air chances when it begins to approach.  Change in air pressure may hurt your dog’s ears, causing even more anxiety.  Don’t be discouraged is this is a problem your pet has—just follow these steps and see if they help.

1)    Stay calm.  This is the first step to calm a dog in a thunderstorm; if you stay calm, your dog will stay calm.  It’s as easy as that.

2)    Don’t comfort your dog when he acts afraid.  Giving your dog tons of attention when he’s scared can actually reinforce the behavior.  He will continue to do it because he doesn’t want to lose his attention from you.  Instead of giving him hugs or special attention, speak to him in a happy voice to give him confidence.  Avoid punishing him for fearful behavior (he can’t help it).

3)    Provide your dog with a safe, indoor shelter during storms.  If your dog lives outdoors and is scared of thunderstorms, then that’s a problem!  No matter his size, you must provide him with a place to stay when the weather gets bad.  This will prevent him from running away or destroying your yard. 

4)    Use a Thundershirt. A Thundershirt is a drug free way to provide comfort to an anxious dog. The shirt is a pressure wrap that applies a gentle, constant pressure on the dog’s torso.

5)    Acquaint your dog with thunderstorm sounds.  The best way to do this is by buying a CD.  Play it on low volume throughout the day while you undergo your regular routine.  Don’t attend to fearful behavior if your dog gets scared by the CD.  Instead, keep him distracted by playing with him.  Gradually increase the volume until your pup can handle a more realistic sounding storm.  Although this process may take a while, your dog will eventually be able to handle storms more easily.

6)    Use a calming supplement. There are special supplements that promote relaxation and balanced behavior along with reducing the feelings of anxiety. One of these supplements is PSCPets Calming Formula for Dogs.

7)    Consider medication.  If none of the above steps work to calm your dog during a thunderstorm, talk to your veterinarian about prescribing your pet with anxiety medication.

The key is to be calm, kind and distract your dog during storms.  Let him determine what comforts him the most.  If he wants to hide under the bed or in a dark room, let him.  If he wants to cuddle up against you, let him.  This will reduce him from showing symptoms of extreme anxiety and will be much easier for you to handle!