How do I Comfort my Dog During a Thunderstorm? 9 Ways

how to calm a dog during a thunderstorm

You see the storm coming in and you’re so thankful for the refreshing rain. But you also get apprehensive because it creates a major challenge for your household: your dog is bound to start acting out. Not all dogs get scared, but the ones that do, it can have huge consequences.

So, just how exactly do you comfort your dog during a thunderstorm? Well, thankfully there are some ways, and it’s up to you to see which is the most effective to help your own dog. Here’s the guide…

How to comfort a dog during a thunderstorm

There are many effective ways to assist your dog in that stressful situation and you can start preparing even before the thunderstorm hits. From managing your own actions to using wearable remedies, you can take back some control of the situation.

Ways to comfort your dog when there’s thunder

When you do realize your dog is suffering during the storm, try and minimize the impact with some of the following.

Handy Hint: Note your dog’s reaction over time, so you can see which methods work best for your particular dog. Then, be ready with that remedy the next time the clouds drift in.

1. Prepare your dog when you know what’s coming

You can start helping your dog even before thunder arrives by watching weather channels and keeping an eye on the sky on days you know may result in bad weather.

You’ll know to be ready with the remedies discussed below, preventing your dog’s anxiety from escalating before you take action. The sooner you help him or her, the easier it will be to calm them.

You may even consider staying home on a day you know there will be a vicious storm. This isn’t always practical but can prevent him or her hurting themselves if they’re home alone when the thunder starts.

Did You Know? Dogs might be able to hear thunder approaching from as far as 40 miles away, so look for signs with him too.

2. Make your dog feel safe and secure before, during, and after the storm

When your dog gets anxious about the approaching storm, it will want to hide in a safe space. This can be its bed or a comfy spot on the couch or even under the blanket on your bed. Make sure such a space is available for your dog indoors, away from the wind, rain and lightning, so he or she can easily feel some sense of security.

3. Re-assure your dog with the right words and actions

Whilst dogs can’t speak English (yet), they can understand certain words and actions, particularly those which relate to offering comfort.

You’ll be tempted to cuddle your dog when the storm hits, hoping that your presence will bring comfort. Don’t rush into that though as it could exacerbate the situation if the dog views the cuddling as a reward for its actions.

calming a dog during thunder
Some dogs will know thunder is coming, so you will need to work on calming them down

So, offer comfort but don’t overdo it.

Also, don’t think that yelling at your dog for acting out will help. This can increase anxiety. You need positive reinforcement of the right behavior.

For example, try massaging your dog to calm it down and reward the dog with a treat when it’s not howling or shivering anymore.

4. Try to distract your dog from the thunderstorm

It may be difficult to get a stressed dog’s attention but try and get them to play or engage with another much-loved activity. Perhaps your dog likes to watch TV with you? It will be much easier to engage with him or her if you try this before the storm hits, so your pooch doesn’t have time to get over stimulated or scared.

Keep it distracted during the worst of the storm, to manage its stress levels.

5. Distraction can come in the form of alternative noise

Since noise can play a part in scaring dogs, drown out some of it. You can play calming music at a volume that’s louder than the storm sounds.

White noise can also work or search online for audio specifically created for calming down dogs.

6. Wrap your dog up, perhaps in a thunder jacket

Physical pressure can help your dog feel a little more secure. This you can give in the form of a wearable item, often called a thunder jacket. You can purchase one on Amazon, or simply wrap the dog tightly but still comfortable with a scarf that crisscrosses its body.

Handy Hint: If you own a Thunder jacket (they are great), then here’s how long I recommend you let your dog keep wearing it before, during, and after the storm.

If your dog has long hair, it may be the static affecting him more, in which case anti-static jackets can help. Even if you simply wipe them down with anti-static laundry sheets you may minimize the effect the static in the air has on the dog.

Some dog owners even find that a cap made of one layer of fabric can help, by covering the dogs’ eyes. Other owners have seen that earmuffs also work.

By minimizing what your dog sees or hears, it can prevent over-stimulation and let lightning seem less intrusive. These accessories help them handle all the visual and auditory stimuli a bit better.

7. Think about your own behavior’s effect on your dog

While you’re busy tending to your dog, how exactly are you feeling? Remember, dogs are very intuitive and aware of what people feel. If you’re feeling stressed as well, it could increase the dog’s anxiety levels during a thunderstorm.

Even if you do feel a bit tense, don’t let your actions make it too obvious:

  • Use a calm tone of voice
  • Never shout
  • Don’t fuss too much about what your dog is doing; take note of it, but don’t focus all your energy on it
  • Try and go about the day as normal
  • Decide before the storm which remedies you’ll try so you’re confident in your next steps; give your dog the chance to follow your lead in staying in control of the situation

8. Considering medicating your dog with vet supervision

Some dogs are extremely anxious and a storm may simply increase stress levels that are already high. Some of the remedies mentioned above may not be enough to help them manage a thunderstorm without acting out.

For them, you may need to request from your vet. There are anti-anxiety medications on the market and some of it is natural, so won’t cause any side effects. For example, dog pheromones or lavender products have helped many families solve their anxious-dog challenges.

9. Desensitize when the storm is over

Your options don’t stop when the storm ends. On a normal day you can still help your dog handle storms a bit better by desensitizing it.

If your dog is also scared of fireworks and other loud noises, it’s possible that the sound of the storm is the main problem. You can try and make the dog used to those sounds, by playing recordings of it. Start with it at low volume, play it daily and increase the volume every few days.

help a dog during a thunderstorm
You dog might need to be calmed a long time after the thunderstorm has finished.

Watch your dog’s reaction and also reward it for listening to it without acting out.

Over time, you may empower your dog to stay calm, even in the midst of a storm raging outside.

Why are dogs afraid during a storm?

The exact reasons for why dogs fear thunder isn’t known. Dogs may also differ, so what terrifies your dog could be unique from your neighbors’. In general, experts suspect some or all of the following could influence your pooch:

  • The sound of the storm, often at frequencies you can’t hear yourself
  • A change in air pressure
  • Wind
  • The visual impact of lightning
  • Static buildup that could cause shocks

Dogs simply experience these features without knowing the reason for it. This can make them feel out of control and scared.

How to know your dog is stressed during a storm

As a pet owner it’s wise to get to know your dog’s habits, so you can identify when he or she is in distress. If you don’t know it’s sparked by the storm, you won’t be able to prevent it or handle the situation correctly to benefit both you and the dog.

With bad weather you may notice them shaking or howling. However, their reactions may be less obvious too, such as nuzzling and pawing you. Others will hide away or showcase destructive behavior.

Conclusion

For those with anxious pets, knowing how to comfort your dog during a thunderstorm is essential. Whilst some dogs are fine with it, the ones who hate thunder will be extremely scared, and this can cause huge issues.

If the tips on comforting your dog above don’t work, seek professional advice from your vet.

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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/lightning-storm-weather-sky-399853/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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