Dogs and thunder often aren't a great mix. Fear of thunder and other loud, unknown noises like vacuum cleaners or fireworks can severely distress our canine companions. The way our dogs deal with the fear of thunder, including barking and hiding, can cause problems that are difficult or annoying to deal with. There are many different solutions for dealing with a dog afraid of thunder, from sedatives to activities to products that can calm your anxious dog. We've made a list of some great ways to calm your fearful dog when that next thunderstorm rolls in.
Here are our top 7 ways for dealing with dog afraid of thunder:
- Probably the best solution, and a long-term one at that, is to desensitize your dog to thunder or other loud sounds like fireworks. There are CDs for desensitizing dogs to sounds which allow you to play the scary sounds at low levels to get the dog used to it and then raise the volume until your dog is no longer afraid of thunderstorms, fireworks, vacuum cleaners and other loud noises.
- Many owners with anxious dogs swear by a product called the Thundershirt. If you can't afford a thundershirt, a tight t-shirt will do. The feeling of tightness around the dog's chest somehow calms the dog.
- For a short-term solution to dog thunder anxiety, there are over the counter sedatives like Rescue Remedy (which we used for our dog for separation anxiety when we first rescued her from the shelter). You can also opt for prescription medications from your vet, but these are short-term solutions. We recommend longer-term solutions like desensitization.
- One thing I like to do when my dog is anxious is to run her through her repertoire of tricks. If I can get her to focus on that, it takes her mind off of what's making her nervous. Also, she's very food motivated, so if I have treats to reward, that will definitely shift her focus away from the fear.
- If your dog is crate trained, putting your dog in its crate during a thunderstorm can give it a “safe” feeling, like being in its den, and lower its anxiety levels.
- Play with your dog, if it is up for it. This accomplishes two things: 1) it focuses the dog on something else that's fun and 2) it associates thunder with something fun.
- Try to drown out the sound of thunder with something louder that the dog is not afraid of, such as a tv, radio, or fans.
Whatever you do, don't try to baby or coddle your dog when it is experiencing thunderstorm anxiety. They may consider that a “reward” for displaying fearful behavior and continue the unwanted behavior instead of eliminating it.
Do you have other ways you help your dog overcome its thunder anxiety or fear of loud noises? Leave us a comment to let us know!