How To Calm Dogs During Thunderstorms

What do you do if your dog freaks out whenever there is a thunderstorm coming? If this is happening to your beloved dog, learning how to calm him down when a storm is approaching will make him feel less stressed and better manage his emotions.

Just like when we are just a young kid, the rowdy thunder scares us, and guess what our parents did? – Calm us down through their WAYS 🙂

So, in this posting, I would share with you what are the WAYS that you can do to make your dog calm down during a thunderstorm.

BUT before we go into the “calming” approaches, I think it’s also important for you to know what makes your dog fearful and nervous during a storm to better tailor your solution.

Why Are Dogs Scared Of Thunderstorms?

Dogs possess much more superior senses and hearing as compared to humans. Thus, they are able to “feel” that a thunderstorm is brewing way before we actually know it. 

They will sense a change in barometric pressure and this makes them feel uncomfortable, and they will start to show their fear and anxiety emotion.

They have no idea what it is, as they can’t “see” the storm, just a feeling of unease. We would not be able to know what they are going through as this barometric pressure change is  “transparent” to us.

What we could see is that the dogs just started to misbehave themselves, showing those undesirable behaviors such as barking and chewing things.

This situation will get worse once the loud thunder comes along. That escalates their panic and fright intensity and in most cases, they will tremble, start looking for a place to hide and make an effort to run away.

They don’t know where the rowdy sound comes from and this makes them panic. Just like if you hear a loud “BANG” gunshot, you would be looking for a place to hide.

Some breeds of dogs tend to show much higher levels of anxiety, fear and panic when experiencing thunderstorms.

Though storm phobia is common for all dogs, these breeds show extreme tense up during this situation and if your dog is one of these breeds, you might need more “effort” to calm him down.

Breeds Of Dogs HIGHLY Bothered By Thunderstorm

  • Cairn Terrier
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Rough Collie

Breeds Of Dogs LEAST Bothered By Thunderstorm

Generally, dogs who are well-trained to be sociable tend to be less intimidating by loud noise. That goes for older or larger size dogs as well.

For dogs who are struggling with anxiety separation, they are certainly the “group” who is more easily upset by thunder. So take special note of this if your dog is suffering from his behavior issue at the moment.

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How Do You Calm A Dog Down During A Thunderstorm?

There are various WAYS to calm your dog’s anxiety and fear when he is experiencing emotional instability when facing a thunderstorm.

Start with the SMALL things that you can do in your home to make your dog calm down.

Music Therapy

Play soothing music to “mask” off the sound of the thunder. This might be the easiest approach and will be readily available in your house.

I have tried both “Canine Lullabies” and “Through a Dog’s Ear” music, and they work very well in easing the anxiety from my Cairn Terrier.

Apart from music, you can also turn on Radio or TV programs to help with “masking” the sound of a thunder.

Be Home With Your Dog

This simple action means a lot to your dog as you are the ONE that he trusts. Just by cuddling (hold him in your arm) him, you are offering him endless comfort and security and this certainly helps to make him calm down and feel safe. 

Just like a kid who will be anxious and nervous when he finds his mom goes missing, and gets that sense of comfort the moment he sees her again, this applies to your dog as well. He needs to have someone he loves, to be with him when he is showing signs of anxiety.

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Create A “SAFE” Place For Him

Dogs like to hide in their “Safe Haven” whenever they encounter a sense of danger or feeling threatening. Make sure that you have designated a special area in your home for your dog to be in when he needs to “hide” himself from a storm.

It could be either a dog crate, an area in your bathroom, a cover under the bed or even under a table.

For my case, I have prepared a dog crate for my Cairn Terrier as I use it for my crate training as well. My Cairn Terrier likes his crate very much as it offers him a sense of security just like a den.

Whenever there is a thunderstorm, he would make his way to his crate and I would cover the crate with a blanket so that it will offer more comfort for him and to help reduce the thunder noise.

Provides Distraction

Instead of letting your dog “focus” on the rowdy thunder, make use of some stimuli to distract his attention.

You could play with him some of his favorite indoor games or to give him a high value chewing toy or a puzzle toy with treats so that he could spend his energy getting the treat from the toy and would “temporarily” forget about the thunder.

Give Him A Massage

Who says that massage is only meant for humans? Your dog certainly loves that massaging as well and YOUR physical touch on him will make him feel relax and stress free as he knows that you are with him.

Calming Remedies

This will involve making use of some external products to assist in calming your dog. You might need this if your dog shows EXTREME fear or anxiety.

Calming T-shirt: Thundershirt

I have got one for my doggie and it helps in providing that additional calming effect on him whenever I find him getting more anxiety than his usual self. Of course, I have him wearing the thundershirt while I cuddle him when there is a thunderstorm. I can see that he is feeling at ease with this approach.

If you plan to get one for your dog, make sure that you get a nice snug fit based on your dog’s chest size. Your finger should be able to slip under it and the straps should only be moderately stretched.

Use of Lavender Oil

Lavender oil has been used for centuries in offering a smoothing and calming effect for humans. Do you know that this oil works well for dogs as well, in providing that anxiety and stress relief for them.

You could apply lavender oil on your dog’s ears and fur while giving him a massage.

If you are observant enough, you would see that a dog groomer likes to apply some lavender oil on their hands before handling a dog as this helps to calm a nervous dog. Breathing lavender helps to ease stress and anxiety.

Over The Counter Medicine

At times, you may need the help of medication to calm down your dog if he is getting “out of control”. For this, reach out to your veterinarian for advice and recommendation before proceeding.

Common medication used for providing anxiety relief include Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), clomipramine (Clomicalm), and amitriptyline (Elavil).

Usually, these medications are meant for occasional needs rather than daily consumption such as when there is a firework or a thunderstorm which will typically cause a dog to panic.

What You Should Not Be Doing

Refrain from any physical form of punishment or yelling at your dog when he is exhibiting undesirable behaviors during this situation. You may be feeling very frustrated at his abnormal behaviors but try to keep yourself cool.

Keep in mind that your dog is also trying to get through this difficult moment, and he is feeling nervous and afraid. Any scolding from you wouldn’t improve the situation and in fact, it might escalate his emotional fear.

Armed with this knowledge, you are certainly in a better position to calm your dog when the NEXT thunderstorm comes.

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