Helping your dog with thunderstorm fear

By | Published On: May 24, 2023 | Categories: Behaviour, Dogs |

Optimistic, I know, but the weather is changing rapidly so let’s hope we get a run of dry, sunny weather. Which does your dog prefer? Rain, cold or warm temperatures, hot, dry weather? Not every dog likes every type. Just like us, some are happiest splashing in puddles, and others enjoy sunbathing in the middle of the lawn.

Summer brings thunderstorms, so be aware that these may frighten your dog. Some dogs bark in fear, flee, or may urinate. You can purchase ‘sound desensitisation’ recordings (or download them) to get your dog used to the crashes and rumbles. Play them at a very low volume at first, then gradually increase until your dog isn’t affected.

It helps if you don’t get worried yourself. You can comfort your dog, and cuddle them if they want you to. We used to think this made their fear worse, but nowadays we have research which shows that fear cannot be reinforced by comfort. Quite the opposite, it can make your dog feel better, but only if you yourself stay happy and jolly.

Why not play a game with them when the next rumbles of thunder appear? They will soon forget about the noises outside if they are having fun indoors.

You can give them their favourite food, and turn the radio and/or TV on so that it drowns out external noise. Your dog can be distracted as long as things have not got too terrifying.

You can provide your dog with a safe place to hide, too. Some dogs like to run under the bed, so as long as you are happy with this, allow it. At least they have a little den to occupy until the ‘danger’ has passed. If not, you can create your own little safe haven. Insulate a crate or travel box with heavy blankets, placing water and food inside. Better still, train them to enjoy being in there long before the storms start. This way, when they are worried, they can head for their safe place that is quiet and cosy.

If your dog shows severe anxiety around thunderstorms, consult with your Vet. They can refer you for behavioural help and advise you on ways to settle your dog using pheromones or other interventions. There is no need for any dog to suffer.

Hopefully the rains will be brief, and we will all enjoy a safe and storm-free summer!

– Karen Wild

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