As pet parents, we want to provide our furry friends with the most comfortable environment possible. It can be distressing to see our dogs get stressed and scared, especially when we have no control over the circumstances.
Does your pup turn into a scaredy-cat during thunderstorms? Keep reading for some expert tips for calming your anxious dog during thunderstorm season.
Why Do Thunderstorms Make Dogs Anxious?
It can be baffling when a typically calm dog gets worked up during a thunderstorm. He may be perfectly fine around fireworks and noisy crowds, but thunderstorms are an entirely different story.
This is because thunderstorm anxiety isn’t just caused by the loud claps of thunder. Wind, lightning, pressure changes, and static electricity can all contribute to thunderstorm anxiety in dogs. In fact, because of your dog’s impressive sense of smell and hearing, he can actually pick up on an oncoming thunderstorm long before it even begins.
Not all dogs experience thunderstorm anxiety. Dogs with other forms of anxiety, such as separation anxiety, are especially prone to thunderstorm anxiety. That said, thunderstorm anxiety can occur at any time—even if your pup was barely bothered by storms for most of his life.
Signs of Thunderstorm Anxiety in Dogs
For you, it may still be the calm before the storm. For your dog, on the other hand, the pressure changes and static electricity can have him acting up long before you even realize there’s a storm coming.
Look for the signs of thunderstorm anxiety, ranging from subtle to severe:
- Clingy behavior
- Licking lips
- Trembling, shaking, or cowering
The earlier you intervene, the more likely you are to help your dog keep calm for the duration of the storm.
5 Tips to Calm Your Anxious Dog During a Thunderstorm
First things first, let’s be clear: you should NEVER punish your dog for any behavior that results from panic. This will only make the situation worse, confirming his suspicions that there is something to fear.
Instead, do the following:
1. Keep Your Cool
When a dog isn’t sure how to act in a given situation, he’ll often look to his owner for cues. If you’re acting anxious and upset, this will enhance your dog’s anxiety.
Stay calm, reassuring your pup that everything is okay. The calmer you are, the more at ease your dog will be.
No matter how tempting it may be, try not to coddle your dog. While your intentions are simply to provide comfort, coddling will inadvertently teach him that his anxious reaction is justified and that the thunderstorm really is as scary as he thinks it is.
2. Distract Your Dog
Instead of stressing about your dog’s anxiety, find an activity that will shift both of your focus to something more positive.
Distract your dog with treats or a favorite toy (or even a comforting sock). You can also go through familiar commands together, making time for quality bonding and providing predictability in an uncertain situation.
Of course, there’s nothing like cozying up in a blanket together for some comfy cuddles! For some dogs, a snug T-shirt or wrap can even provide an added sense of security.
3. Create a Quiet Safe Space
Does your dog have a specific area of the house that he tends to retreat to during stressful situations? If so, use it to your advantage by turning it into a comforting safe space with blankets, treats, and plenty of toys.
This should be a space where your dog feels comfortable and secure, not trapped and confined. He should be able to enter and exit at will, whether it’s his crate or a quiet room with no windows or blackout curtains.
Ambient noise, such as a fan or sound machine, can also be calming for some dogs. For others, though, it can add to the stress, so be mindful of your dog’s unique needs.
4. Plan a Puppy Playdate
Sometimes, there’s nothing like hanging out with a calm, level-headed friend to ease our own anxiety. The same goes for dogs.
If you have a friend with a dog who isn’t scared of thunderstorms, it may be encouraging for your pup to play with a non-fearful dog in order to boost his own confidence.
If you’re planning a thunderstorm playdate, the dogs should already be familiar with each other. Otherwise, an unfamiliar encounter could exacerbate the already stressful situation.
5. Try Pet Honesty’s Calming Fresh Sticks
Some dogs chew as a way of comforting themselves during times of stress, which is what makes Pet Honesty’s Hemp Calming Fresh Sticks the perfect solution to your pet’s thunderstorm anxiety. Plus, all of those ridges and textures are great for cleaning your dog’s teeth!
Not only are these fresh sticks chewable and digestible, but they’re also designed to soothe your anxious dog with naturally calming ingredients including melatonin, hemp, valerian root, and chamomile.