How to Comfort Your Dog During Thunderstorms

4 min read
How to Comfort Your Dog During Thunderstorms - Animals Matter, Inc.

Is your dog afraid of thunderstorms? When lightning flashes and thunder rolls, many dogs become anxious and fearful. Here are some tips on how to calm and comfort your dog during thunderstorms and noisy weather.

Why Do Dogs Become Fearful Before Thunderstorms?

A dog's ears are much more sensitive to loud sounds than our own ears. Many dogs have noise phobias that can be triggered by fireworks, gunfire, construction sounds, heavy traffic, and other loud noises. If your dog is one of these poor pups, thunderstorms are probably very high on their list of scary noises!

A dog's storm anxiety might be triggered by the following:

  • The barometric pressure changes that precede a storm
  • Static electricity building up in their fur and shocking them
  • The smell of ozone
  • Other storm-related stimuli that you may not even be aware of but that are clear to your dog

How Fearful Dogs React When a Storm Arrives

Fear of storms can produce some decidedly unwelcome behavior in even a well-trained but terrified pet. Dogs don't understand where the noise is coming from when the thunder rumbles; they just know that the sound makes them scared and anxious.

The PARC vet hospital explains that thunderstorm phobias can cause extremely fearful dogs to exhibit destructive behaviors like ripping up carpets, clawing through drywall, and even breaking down doors in their frantic efforts to escape.

Dogs suffering from thunderstorm anxiety may exhibit these signs of fear and panic:

  • Excessive panting and salivation
  • Licking their paws
  • Trembling all over
  • Constant, mindless pacing
  • Barking or whining
  • Cower in fearing
  • Hiding, often in unusual places like closets

Thunder and lightning aren't the only parts of a thunderstorm that may be terrifying your poor dog. Driving rain, pounding hail, and howling winds amp up the fear factor, too.

You may want to work with a canine behaviorist before storm season arrives in your area if your dog has an especially bad storm phobia. This is important since says that in really extreme cases of storm anxiety, a dog may turn on family members and bite them out of sheer terror.

Steps You Can Take to Help Ease Storm Anxiety

As pet parents, we want to do everything possible to alleviate our dog's fear during a thunderstorm. The terror of a dog during thunderstorms is absolutely heartbreaking for a loving dog owner to watch. All we want is for them to be able to take a thunderstorm in their normally happy-go-lucky stride. So, what steps can a pet parent take to help their beloved dog at least approach that blissful state?

Playing a recording of a distant thunderstorm at a low volume will let your dog slowly get desensitized to the sound of rumbling thunder. If your dog can't even bear listening to a muted thunderstorm, try a white noise machine instead. White noise will at least help mask the sound of approaching thunder, while drawing the drapes will block out the sight of those fearful flashes of lightning.

If you're expecting a thunderstorm later in the day, tire your dog out with a long walk or run, a robust game of fetch, or an extra-long session on the treadmill.

Also, provide a safe place for your dog during thunderstorms. Their preferred safe space might be their kennel (especially if it has a comfy crate pad and a cover to block out the sight and sound of the storm).

Other options might include a luxuriously comfortable dog bed in your bedroom closet or a dog floor pillow in a quiet interior bathroom. However, they might prefer burrowing under the covers of your bed. If the space is soundproof, so much the better!

Other Desensitization Steps You Can Take

  • Dog-appeasing pheromones like Adaptil can help keep your dog calm with the same type of pheromones that a mother dog uses to keep her entire litter calm and stress-free. You can use a diffuser to distribute the pheromones throughout your dog's preferred safe space.
  • The American Kennel Club (AKC) suggests that dogs that lick themselves raw or indulge in destructive chewing as a self-soothing mechanism will benefit from a sturdy chew or a Lickimat smeared with something yummy like a smushed ripe banana, cream cheese, peanut butter, or baby foods like meats and/or veggies.
  • Leaving the TV on will provide soothing background noise and may even prove a useful distraction if it's tuned to your dog's favorite TV show.
  • A Thundershirt or other anxiety wrap swaddles your dog with gentle, consistent pressure that soothes and calms many dogs.
  • Never reinforce your dog's fearful behavior. Doing so just confirms their belief that they're right to be afraid! Instead of holding or petting a fearful dog, try counterconditioning by distracting your dog with a favorite vigorous game like tug or indoor fetch.
  • Dog owners concerned about their pet's mental health may want to consult with a veterinarian. An experienced vet might suggest calming supplements with ingredients like cannabidiol (CBS), melatonin, passionflower, or valerian. These supplements might be available as treats, tablets (hide them in peanut butter), or oils.
  • Your dog's vet may also prescribe anti-anxiety medications to relieve some of your dog's worst symptoms.

At Animals Matter, we provide pet products that will help your dog live their best life. Contact us for more information.


What should you do if your dog is scared of storms?

Don't indulge your dog's anxiety! Try playing a favorite game with your dog during thunderstorms. If that doesn't work, provide your anxious dog with a safe place and some comfort aids to help them calm down.

How can you make your dog more comfortable during a storm?

Provide a space where they feel safe, and turn on a white noise machine or play soothing classical music for your dog during thunderstorms. Also, you can use an Adaptil pheromone diffuser or dress them in a Thundershirt to help ease their storm anxiety.

Why is it a good idea to have a dog's favorite blanket in the car?

You never know where you and your dog might be during a scary thunderstorm! Your dog's favorite blanket and a special toy may be enough to keep them at least a little calm until you can get them safely home.

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