Perhaps you know the drill: A clap of thunder, a flash of lightning, and your ordinarily calm dog is out of sight and off crying or on a frantic search for a hiding place.
Your pet is not alone. Sadly, animal shelters see an uptick in strays after thunderstorms. Pets that aren’t properly confined may run off in frantic fear of the deafening noise; other pets are abandoned when their owners decide they can no longer handle their erratic behaviour.
What you can do:
- Set the “Safe Zone”
- Create a safe, storm-proof place for your pet.
- To find the ideal safe haven, pay attention to where your pet goes when a storm starts. If possible, help make this her permanent safe zone by adding a blanket, toy, or water dish. Crates can be safe spots, but a key feature should be that it’s as far away from storm sounds as possible.
- Reward calm behaviour – Don’t wait for your dog to act fearful to give her attention. When one consoles a whimpering dog, this is actually rewarding the unwanted behaviour.
- Use a product like Thundershirt when it’s not raining. Many owners make the mistake of putting their dogs in these snug-fitting calming jackets after a storm has begun. In fact, have your pup wear the shirt before a storm hits, when he/she’s already happy and relaxed, this will help him associate the sensation of wearing it with feeling calm.
- Try not to appear anxious yourself — your pup will pick up on that and will remain fearful. Try to avoid giving “cues” that something is wrong.
- Veterinary Intervention
- For dogs with mild anxiety, the above techniques may be helpful.
- Dogs who have prolonged fear of storms that have been left untreated may not respond to behaviour modification techniques due to the exhaustion surrounding the fear.
- Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety medications to help your pet feel calmer and be better to learn to manage their fear.