Many dogs are afraid of thunder, fireworks or the noise of a firearm. It is not easy to keep a dog calm during a thunderstorm or at new years eve when there are fireworks. Lightning and the plummeting barometic pressure can also scare a dog out its wits. Vets call it Storm Phobia.
It is not just their psyche that is at risk here. Dogs who panick because of thunder can do serious damage to themselves. Dogs get bruises, lacerations, fractured paws and sometimes even broken limbs. A dog who is not inside, or well attached might run off and get hit by a car. A dog scared of thunder has a big risk of hurting him/herself.
Soo how can you handle a dog suffering from storm phobia? Here are some tips from a veterinarian.
1. Take care of it early, when your dog is young
A dog who quivers and shakes and is hiding underneath the bed is suffering from the fear of the thunderstorm. Even if he does not freak out completely he is suffering from it and if this is not taken care off symptoms might get worse and worse. Because of this, it is important to handle it from the beginning when your dog is young. You need to act now.
2. Your dog needs to be comforted and distracted during the thunderstorm.
Some dog owners don’t offer consolation to their dogs because the say they don’t want to reinforce the negative behavior. They mean that you should not encourage your dog to whine and cry. But a severe thunderstorm is very hard on a dog and the fear he/she is feeling is not rational (after all she is safe inside the house) Punishing your dog for freaking out is not a good idea either and it is most likely to make the dog even more anxious. What you can do is to distract your dog with something fun, a new toy or maybe a treat. This can help to get her to calm down.
3. Offer treats, cuddles and other good, fun things when there are storms
Well, this is sort of what I mentioned above. If your dog is offered treats, cuddles and play during the thunderstorm, it will associate thunderstorms with something good.
4. Provide a hiding place, for example a crate
This is a natural defense for dogs. In the wild dogs hide (for example in a cave) to be protected from the elements as well as enemies. A dog who is used to crate from an early age will have an advantage when they get scared. Being able to hide away is an excellent approach to tackle the fear of thunderstorms or any other fear. Dogs feel comfortable when they can hide in confined, protective place. If you have an older dog who is not used to being crated, this can still be used. You can for example place the crate near you so that your dog feels the protection of the crate as well as your prescence.
5. Compete with the noise of thunder
Apart from the confined, protective place mentioned above you could also try to add a loud radio or white noise machine. Or why not some soothing dog calming music? Doing this will counter act the noise of thunder and make it far less dominating and thus less scary.
6. Protecting from electromagnetism
This is not caused by the noise of thunder but by the lightning strike. This might sound weird but dogs can be sensitized by the electromagnetic radiation caused by lightning strikes.One way to protect your dog from the fear caused by electromagnetic radation is to cover her hiding place (crate for example) with Aluminium fold. If she is hiding underneath a bed, you place aluminium fold between the box-spring and mattress. Another way of dog this is to get your dog a storm defender cape. This is strapped on to the dog like a shirt.
7. Make him used to the noise of thunderstorms
It might sometimes be possible make a dog soo used to the thunderstorm so that they no longer fear it. This can be done by using a thunderstorm sound CD and then play it at a low volume on your stereo. Play with him or give treats or caresses while this cd is playing and then slowly increase the volume of it. For some dogs this works really well and after a few weeks of doing it, they are no longer afraid of the noise of thunderstorms.
8. Consult your veterinarian for calming drugs
In some really severe case it might be good to aske your veterinarian. There are safe drugs that can be administered to your dog and keep him calm during thunderstorms. Your veterinarian can help you with this.
9. Consider seeing a professional dog behaviorist
A good dog behavorist or dog trainer might be able to help you if nothing else works. Fear of thunderstorms is a very common problem and a dog trainer/dog behavorists with years of experience has probably encountered this problem before.
As mentioned, fear of thunderstorms and/or loud noises (such as guns firing) is a very common problem for many dog owners. All dogs are individuals and what works with one dog might not work with another therefore it is important to try different solutions until you find something that works for your dog.
As always, if you have experience of this and/or if you would like to share your own tips and suggestions please leave them in the comment field below.