Thunderstorms and dogs don’t always get along. Much like children, dogs often get frightened at the sound of thunder roaring in the area. If your dog cowers or cries when the skies start to crack, there are some steps you can take to calm the situation and make your dog feel safe and secure. In the guide below, we will explain how to keep your dog calm during a thunder storm.
Use Treats or Toys to Change the Way Your Dog Views Thunderstorms
Most dogs are highly motivated by treats or toys. You can alter much of their behavior just by using these tools to your advantage. In this case, you will be using treats or toys as a way to make your dog excited about thunder storms. Once a roar of thunder goes off, praise your dog and reward him or her with a treat. Repeat this process every time the thunder booms. Eventually, your dog will learn to associate the thunder with something positive, rather than the fear of something negative. His need to cower will be replaced by his desire to get whatever treats are waiting for him after the storm sounds.
Practice with Sounds of Thunderstorms before Actual Thunderstorms Arrive
Unless you spend most of your time at home, there’s a good chance that you won’t be around when the next thunderstorm hits. It’s best to prepare your dog ahead of time so he or she does not have to worry if you’re not there for comfort during a storm. Pull up a YouTube video with thunderstorm sounds and practice the treat tip above. Start with the thunder at a low volume, and make it progressively louder as your dog gets used to it. This will give you a chance to gauge his reaction and see what he can tolerate.
Create a Safe Place for Your Dog to Go during a Storm
Another way to ease your dog’s fear during a storm is to provide a safe place for him to retreat to. This may be a cozy closet, a kennel, a corner of the room, or anywhere else that your dog feels comfortable. Provide a fluffy bed and plenty of toys for your dog to chew on in case he starts to feel anxious. Some dogs get destructive when they get worried or scared. Teach your dog that this is his safety spot for storms, and he will eventually learn to go there when things get loud.
Dogs feed off their owner’s energy. If you are nervous or anxious during the storm, your dog is going to pick up on that. Try your best to stay calm, even if the storm gets loud. It may help to play a soothing CD or watch a calming movie while the storm is going on to drown out the sound. The more peaceful the environment is, the easier it will be on your dog.
PRO TIP: If your dog responds well to the soothing music, you can leave it playing when you leave the house on days that storms are imminent.
Be Loving, Not Punishing
Your dog is already frightened from the storm. Yelling at him or correcting him will not make the situation any better. Avoid disciplining your dog during a thunderstorm and focus on making him feel safe and protected. This may mean that your 150 pounds Great Dane turns into a lap dog temporarily. If you stay calm and caring throughout the process, your dog will learn that thunderstorms aren’t as bad as they seem. But, resist the urge to be too over-protective as he may see this as affirming his fear. Act like the storm is nothing to be concerned with and try to initiate some playtime.