Helping your dog overcome fear of thunderstorms

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Many dogs are fearful of thunder and suffer great anxiety whenever bad weather rolls in. Some dogs will shake and cry uncontrollably, while others will wander off and hide. Many dogs will overcome their fear of thunder, but some won't. My dog is eight years old and he still becomes a nervous wreck during thunderstorms.

If your dog can't seem to overcome his fear of thunderstorms, don't worry. There are some things you can do to help him be less fearful.

  1. Distract your dog by playing with him. Doing this will keep his mind off the thunderstorm. Chews or toys can be really helpful during a stressful situation like this.

  2. Because thunderstorms will make your dog anxious, you shouldn't react to it. Dogs can sense fear and if they see you're fearful of the thunderstorm, their anxiety level will increase. During a thunderstorm, remember to behave as usual.

  3. Turn on some soothing music for your dog to listen to during a thunderstorm. Soothing music can help calm his nerves.

  4. You should never reward your dog during a thunderstorm in an attempt to calm his fears. These rewards can be anything from cuddles, hugs, treats, etc. If you reward a dog for shaking and whining, you'll only be reinforcing his fears - which is the last thing you'll want to do.

  5. Try conditioning your dog when the weather is sunny. The way to go about doing this is to play a recording of a thunderstorm on a low volume setting. If your dog reacts negatively to the recording, turn it down to a level that doesn't upset him. You'll need to play this recording multiple times throughout the day. After several days have passed, you'll want to start increasing the volume. By gradually conditioning your dog to the sound of thunder, you'll be helping him overcome his fear.

  6. Create a safe place that your dog can go to when stormy noises frighten him. If you notice that your dog prefers a certain spot during stormy weather, make the area as comfortable as possible for him. If your dog feels safe under the covers, give him his own blanket to help him feel less fearful.

  7. Make sure your dog has shelter during stormy weather. If your dog normally stays outdoors, make sure he has a dog house or pen to stay in. If you'll allow your dog to stay in the garage or basement during stormy weather, that's a much better option.

  8. Give your dog one of these two products: The Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt. These two products will fit your dog like a piece of tight clothing and use pressure to relieve your pet's stress during thunderstorms. If your dog doesn't mind wearing clothing, one of these two products may work great for him.

  9. Give your dog over-the-counter medication (sedatives) to help relieve his stress. Remember, even though most over-the-counter medications are safe for your dog to take, please consult with your veterinarian before administering them to your pet.

  10. You should never punish your dog for being afraid. Doing this will only make him more fearful. If your dog does well during a thunderstorm, don't forget to reward him when it's over.

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