Thunderstorms can be terrifying. House-shaking thunder, loud whistling winds, and close cracks of lightning can make anyone’s heart skip a beat.
Now imagine being a dog with no idea why it feels like the sky is falling.
All dogs are different when it comes to exhibiting fear. Some dogs show fear by pacing, whining, excessively panting, or shaking. Some may try to find a safe space to hide, while others may injure themselves trying to escape a crate or room if they’re confined. How your dog displays fear determines what you should do to help.
Follow these tips from Animal Humane Society’s behavior experts to help your four-legged pal weather the storm. (These tips work for kitties, too! Most cats are indifferent to weather, but loud noises can be especially frightening for our feline friends.)
Animals can feel our emotions, especially stress. If you try to help your dog while you’re anxious or afraid, it will only make things worse.
Before helping your pup, take a few breaths to calm yourself down.
Manage a mild reaction
Mild reactions to thunderstorms include trembling, hiding, or snuggling up to you. Help your pet through their anxiety by limiting their exposure to the sights and sounds that are causing their fear. Close curtains and blinds, flip on the lights, and turn on a radio, TV, or white noise machine to drown out what’s happening outside. Loud fans can work, too. If your furry friend has found a safe place to hide and relax, let them hide.
Their safe space should be comfortable and big enough for your dog to stretch out, stand up, and sleep in peace. It could be a place they already naturally go when they need a break. Continue to make it easily accessible, with water and food nearby, and a few toys or bones to keep them occupied, if needed.
If your pet is looking to you for comfort, try engaging them with something they enjoy, such as a treats or a food-stuffed toy. Affection and soothing pets can make a huge difference, too.
Seek help for a severe reaction
While mild reactions are relatively easy to manage at home, severe reactions can be scary. If your dog or cat howls, screams, destroys things, or injures themselves in an effort to escape, talk to your veterinarian. Oral medications can help animals that experience severe anxiety.
A tired dog is a good dog
If you know it’s supposed to storm later in the day, exercise your dog to tire them out. Strenuous exercise reduces anxiety, and while it won’t make their fears go away, it can help your animal keep calm during intense weather.
For more pet behavior tips and tricks, check out our Pet Behavior Library.