How to Help With Your Dog’s Fear of Thunderstorms
Dogs with fear of thunderstorms or “thunderstorm phobia” can be a common issue faced by dog owners. In this article, we will look at ways you can help alleviate your dog’s fear of thunderstorms.
Symptoms of thunderstorm phobia in your dog can include pacing, your dog cowering in a corner or under tables, chairs – anything that would provide cover for your dog. In some extreme cases, dogs may some times panic and try to dig through walls or doors to escape the thunderstorm.
You must also remember that dogs’ hearing is much more sensitive to ours and a thunderstorm will feel like a much more intense experience for them. There are also thunderstorm features such as barometric pressure changes and static electricity that your dog may sense in a way that we as humans, cannot.
If your dog already exhibits nervous tendencies, e.g. separation anxiety, or fear of loud noises, there a stronger possibility that your dog will have a strong fear of thunderstorms.
The are a number of ways you can address your dog’s fear of thunderstorms:
1. Reward your dog for calm behaviour: If your dog is pacing a lot in a situation that is making him/her nervous, the dog will get himself/herself more worked up. Reward for your dog for showing calm behaviour, for example command the dog to lie in his/her bed and reward the dog with the treat. This training should be re-enforced even when there are no thunderstorms.
2. Provide your dog with a safe place to settle during thunderstorms: . Provide your dog with a space that is quieter and feels more sheltered, e.g. a basement, or a utility room can be good for this. Try to avoid confining your dog in a smaller space during a thunderstorm, as he/she may feel more anxious.
3. Prepare your dog for the sound of thunderstorms: In preparation for thunderstorms, play recordings of thunderstorms on low while giving your dog treats or playing games. When your dog appears to be more comfortable, increase the volume over the duration of the training, and if your dog starts showing signs of anxiety, stop the activity for some time and repeat on the lower volume. The objective is to get your dog familiar with the sound of thunder and link it with good things.
4. Get advice from your vet: Your dog may have many options for you, such as behaviour training, and/or anti-anxiety medication if your dog’s fear is an extreme case and your live in an area with persistent thunderstorms.