Many dogs are frightened by the sights and sounds of thunderstorms. Rain, wind, thunder, lightning, and even pressure changes can all cause anxiety. Some dogs will simply pace and whine to deal with their fear, while others hide or even injure themselves while trying to escape confinement. How your dog reacts determines which interventions are most appropriate for your pup.
First and foremost, try to stay as calm as possible. Your stress will only worsen the situation.
- If your dog trembles, hides, or snuggles up to you, limit their exposure to the elements as much as possible. Close curtains and blinds, turn on lights, and turn on the radio, TV or a white noise machine to drown out the sounds outside.
- Allow them to hide if it's safe and helps them relax.
- If you know it’s going to storm later in the day, try to exercise your dog as thoroughly as possible to tire them out. Strenuous exercise reduces anxiety, and while it won’t prevent their fear, it may lower the intensity of your dog’s reaction.
- Comfort your dog. This won't reward the behavior, but, at best it will help. At worst, it'll do nothing. Try to engage them in something they love. If they will eat a treat, try feeding them as the storm approaches. You could also fill a food stuffed toy to keep your dog busy and make the storm less stressful. If they won't eat, that means their stress level is too high and you should stop trying to feed.
- If your dog howls, screams, destroys things, or injures themselves in an effort to escape, talk to your veterinarian. Ask about a medication to help with their anxiety.