Have you ever heard of Astraphobia? Apparently, dogs can be afraid of thunderstorms, too, and it’s probably more common than you think. So just before the summer is over, here are a few tips on how to comfort a dog during thunderstorms, including the best supplements to try.
Keep in mind that there may be several factors that contribute to your dog’s anxiety. Apart from the obvious reasons, your pup can also sense things you might not be aware of, such as oncoming storms.
Changes in the barometric pressure usually happen just before a thunderstorm. While we can’t see or feel this, your dog certainly can as it causes an uncomfortable build-up of static electricity in his fur.
There are a number of different things you can do at home to help your dog stay relaxed on a stormy day. However, if the anxiety is severe, you should consult with your vet about the best treatment plan.
In the mean, here’s how to soothe your dog here and now.
Comfort a Dog During Thunderstorms: 9 Ways to Calm Your Dog
Note: if your dog in on anxiety-reducing medications, make sure the next suggestions aren’t interfering with his treatment.
1. Set an Example
Dogs are highly susceptible to picking up on human emotions. Therefore, if your dog is scared of thunderstorms, the best thing you can do is let him know you’re there for him.
Also, don’t worsen your dog’s anxiety by getting mad at him as it will only make him feel worse. Instead, react calmly and help him gain some confidence by reassuring him that he’s safe.
And no, you can’t “reward” him for being afraid.
2. Pick a Safe Place
Whether it’s a heavy-duty kennel, an interior room with no windows, or the basement, your dog needs a shelter where he can feel protected from the approaching storm. This place should always be available and associated with positive things like treats and toys.
If you decide to use a crate, then be sure to leave a cushion or thick blanket inside so your dog can snuggle up. Also, don’t lock the kennel door since it can make your pup feel trapped and more anxious.
In case the room has windows, do your best to cover them, and turn on the lights so your dog can’t see what’s going on outside.
3. Modify Your Dog’s Behavior
Dog behavior modification (sometimes referred to as positive reinforcement) is a training technique used by many pet behavior specialists and trainers in order to replace unwanted behavior with wanted or expected behavior. This usually includes lots of treats, praises, and toys.
The act of giving your dog a reward when he’s calm won’t only make him feel different about storms, but it will also divert his attention from it.
Another thing you can do is to train your dog to tolerate exposure to thunderstorms.
Yes, I know this seems counterproductive, but desensitizing your pup to low storm sounds while he eats or plays will create a positive effect on his relationship with bad weather.
You can increase the volume of the sounds over time, but do it gradually, and stop immediately if your dog starts to get anxious.
4. Play Relaxing Music
The right type of music can be a natural antidepressant and mood enhancer for both humans and dogs (this is also why it’s often used in shopping centers and other public places).
By playing classical music for your dog during thunderstorms, he will be calmer, and it will also minimize any noise coming from outside.
Youtube is a great place for finding relaxing music for dogs, however, if you’re looking for something more specific, be sure to take a peek at this special music collection for anxious dogs, and read through the testimonials.
5. Try a ThunderShirt Jacket
The ThunderShirt (sometimes called Storm Jacket or Snug Garment) is specifically designed to treat thunderstorm phobias by applying constant pressure on the dog’s torso.
Your dog will feel as though he’s constantly being hugged, which will provide comfort and help him deal with behavior problems such as fear of thunders, separation anxiety, walks, car drives, and alike.
This product typically has a high success rate, but if you’re not happy with the results after use, you can return it within 45 days and ask the seller for a refund.
How to Use a ThunderShirt?
First of all, don’t wait to put the shirt on when there’s a storm outside. At that point, your dog is already anxious, and you shouldn’t stress him out even more.
Instead, help him get used to wearing the jacket, preferably when he’s fully relaxed.
For example, let him walk around with it for about 10 minutes each day as that should be enough time for him to get used to the feeling, and understand the boundaries of his body.
I’ve heard about dogs that show an instant positive reaction to this solution, but some may take a couple of weeks to adjust.
While it’s usually considered safe to wear the ThunderShirt in situations where you have to leave your dog alone during a storm, always check your dog for any signs of irritation when you take it off.
6. Get Rid of the Static
Remember how we talked about the changes in the barometric pressure? Turns out, this static charge can build up and make your dog jumpy.
There’s a solution for this called Storm Defender, which looks just like the ThunderShirt. The difference is that this product can also discharge the coat from static buildup, and reduce your dog’s sensitivity to it by using a special metallic lining.
You can get a similar result by covering your dog’s crate with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Natural Supplements That May Help Reduce Your Dog’s Anxiety
Important: always talk to your veterinarian before trying new supplements.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring sleep hormone that has been shown to reduce anxiety in dogs by promoting calmness and relaxation.
Normally, one tablet of melatonin supplement 1 hour before the storm starts is enough. However, it’s best to ask your vet about the right dosage for your dog.
8. Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy is a natural treatment for stress relief made from a blend of flowers that are thought to help your dog cope with anxiety-producing situations.
This product is free of alcohol and can be used on all dogs. You can drop the solution on a treat, add it into a water bowl, or rub your dog’s paw and belly with it.
Just make sure you get the one that’s made for pets and not the human form.
9. Lavender Oil
The last natural supplement you can use is Lavender—a popular essential oil that’s known for its relaxing properties.
While you don’t want your dog to ingest it, you can put one drop of high-quality lavender oil on his collar or paw pad, so that the sweet and soothing smell will help calm his nerves.