How to Handle a Dog’s Fear of Thunderstorms

This time of year often brings afternoon thunderstorms. Some pets are afraid of thunder through bad experience or an ingrained reaction to the noise and pressure changes. Fortunately, there are some ways in which you can help your pet to overcome his fear of thunder. So if you have a pet and there is a thunderstorm, what do you do to make them not be as scared?

What to do

Distract your dog from the loud noise that is going on outside. You can do this by putting on the radio or the television at a volume that isn’t too loud, but gently drowns out the thunder. You can also distract your dog by playing a game with them, such as fetch, or handing him a chew which will last a while such as a Kong.

Create a safe, well-known environment that your dog is used to. If your dog insists on crawling under the table, let him stay there – don’t force him to do something it really doesn’t want to. Don’t confine your dog to certain areas too. Make him feel comfortable and at home. It is bad if your dog feels like you are not paying enough attention to him.

Train your dog to not fear thunder. You can do this by purchasing a CD which is a recording of a storm. Play this at a low volume at first. Reward your dog when he shows no sign of fear. Slowly increase the volume of the CD and keep rewarding your dog with treats as he shows less signs of fear.

If you’ve attempted many times to stop your dog’s fear of thunder, medication is always a possible option. Your veterinarian can discuss options here. But firstly, you must consider your dog’s welfare: Is it worth him being drowsy and calm? Or should you stick to your dog being frightened and potentially putting himself or others at risk?

What not to do

Don’t punish your dog when it gets frightened. This will only upset and confuse him even more.

Don’t try to force your dog to overcome that fear. For example: making him stay outside throughout the storm.

Except in the most severe cases, it’s possible to help your dog manage their fears better during a thunderstorm.

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