How do I Calm a Dog During Thunderstorms Without Medicine or Pills?

by Betty Lewis
    You should remain calm, too -- Bruno's fear can build on your anxiety.

    You should remain calm, too -- Bruno's fear can build on your anxiety.

    Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Outside, lightning flashes and thunder booms. Inside, your pup shakes and shivers. A thunderstorm can turn the most confident dog into a jittery, crying mess. You know the storm will pass, but Bruno doesn't. Addressing his environment and behavior can help calm your dog without the need for medicine or pills.

    Flash, Boom; Quake, Quiver

    You're likely used to the sound of thunder and flash of lightning, but for your pup, it can cause anxiety. Many dogs experience thunderstorm phobia and generally, the fear and anxiety will increase over time if not addressed. Bruno may pace from room to room, climb on you, pant or drool, and shake uncontrollably. A dog with extreme fear may lose control of his bladder and bowels, tear up the carpet or furniture and squeeze into whatever tight space he can find. Many pets are hypersensitive to thunderstorms, and things such as static electricity buildup, wind, barometric pressure changes and lightning may feed your dog's fear.

    The Safe Spot

    If you crate-trained Bruno when he was a pup, he may find sanctuary by retreating to his crate during thunderstorms. If he's not keen on the crate, a quiet place where he can relax may still be just what the doctor ordered. Whether it's a crate or an out-of-the-way spot in the room, Bruno's secret hideaway should be quiet, dark and easily accessible. If he has a favorite blanket or toys, make sure they're included in his safe spot. Coax him into his special place, using treats or by sitting with him to calm his frazzled nerves. Music, television or the radio may help drown out the storm's noise and help him feel better.

    Desensitize the Stress Away

    Unfortunately for Bruno, those storms will keep on coming. Getting him used to the sounds of a storm can help relieve his anxiety when a thunderstorm rolls in. Woodbridge Animal Hospital recommends using pre-recorded storms to condition a dog to the sound of thunder. Start playing the storms at a low volume -- low enough that your dog can hear it, but isn't anxious at the sound. Each day, increase the volume a tiny bit, pairing it with treats, play or other rewards. When a real storm begins to announce its presence, play, snuggle or reward your pup as you have during your conditioning sessions.

    Close to You

    Some drug-free products found at pet stores and online may help Bruno through his trying times, including a cape with a metallic lining, protecting him from static charge buildup that comes with storms. You can find a variety of wraps and coats made specifically to sooth a dog in anxious situations; they work by providing calming pressure to the swaddled dog. Sometimes the best medicine for a frightened dog during the storm is to be snuggled up with you on the couch or in his favorite chair. If Bruno has a buddy in the house that soothes his soul, try keeping them together in the same space.

    Keep Calm

    A few common sense measures will help during the storm. Bruno will take his cue from you, so if you're stressed during a big boom, he'll pick up on it and his anxiety could intensify. Wherever his safe place is, make sure he's away from small or sharp objects; dogs often chew during stressful times, so ensure there's nothing he could swallow that might injure him. Keep him away from entrances to your house so he doesn't make a dash in his frightened state.

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master’s degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.

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