If you know your pet hates loud, high pitched or sudden noises, it’s likely they will find thunderstorms stressful. It's a common problem, and storm stress can often leave dogs frantic and overcome with fear. But there are a number of steps you can take to alleviate this anxiety.
How do I know if my dog is stressed by thunderstorms?
Dogs show they are stressed or anxious in lots of ways, including panting excessively, drooling, shaking, yawning, and putting their tail between their legs. They may also pace around, whine, bark and drink more - so make sure their water bowl is filled up to the brim.
What steps can I take to keep a dog calm and safe during thunderstorms?
Always keep your dog indoors during thunderstorms. If storms are looming, hold off on walks - it'll keep you both dry and safe as well.
Switching the TV or radio on might help to muffle the sound, but make sure it’s not too loud and don’t try this if your dog isn’t used to these household noises already. Close the curtains to black out any flashing lights from lightening bolts.
Ensure your dog is microchipped (it's a legal requirement) and your information is up to date so your dog can be returned to you if they are spooked by thunderstorms and run off. By law your dog should be wearing an ID tag with your name and address displayed in any public place, too. If your phone number is easily readable you will have a better chance of being reunited quickly.
What should I do if my dog has storm phobia?
Although it’s difficult when it’s obvious your pet is stressed, try not to let your dog know you are worried as it may make the problem worse. Stay calm, act normally and give lots of praise for calm behaviour.
Let your worried dog pace around, whine and hide in a corner if he wants to. It’s okay to cuddle and stroke your pet if it helps them relax, but once they have found a safe space and appear calm, try not to disturb them.
Dogs may like to hide in a den where they can feel safe and comfortable when loud noises are all around. This could be under your bed or behind the sofa. Placing some of your clothes there might help to keep your pet calm during thunderstorms.
Speak to your vet if problems persist as they may be able prescribe calming medication that might help your dog if they really struggle with storm anxiety. Sound therapy to slowly desensitise them from the noises could also be considered - ask your vet or a qualified behaviourist about this.
It goes without saying that you should never shout at your pet. If you have to leave your house during a thunderstorm and come home to find your dog has been destructive or toileted, don’t get angry with them. Reprimanding them won’t help and will also make your dog more stressed.