10 Tips to Help Calm Dogs Afraid of Thunder

Thunderstorms and lightning. Very, very frightening!

Summertime means a lot of great things for dogs and dog lovers.

Running through open fields, rolling in the cool green grass, swimming in our favorite holes and fountains. Longer days mean more time afield, more hours lounging around under shady trees and on front porches. And with all of that extra playtime comes more exercise, which usually means happier pooches and happier owners. But there is a downside to hot sultry summertime too.

Because like a lot of things in life, summer comes with a real dark lining.

I’m talking thunderstorms.

And the dogs who hate them.

If you’ve never had the ‘pleasure’ of being around a poor pup who just cannot process or handle big thunder and lightning storms, it’s difficult to explain with words just how strange things can get. Nothing seems to change certain dogs’ normally upbeat personalities as much as the clap and crash of a t-boomer rolling across the neighborhood sky. Once happy campers might squeal or cry. Some hide and shake. And still others just plain freak out to the point where more than one owner has had to think twice about whether his best friend might have actually lost his darn marbles for good.

If you have experienced this phenomenon with your own dogs, well then, you know precisely what I’m talking about. And I feel for you, too.

So, with summer knocking down the door, I figured it was time for a look at some of the best ideas for dealing with thunderstruck dogs. And hopefully, with a little information, we can make this summer a whole lot more enjoyable for a bunch of our hairy buddies who deserve to have their best summertime yet.

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  • Start ‘Em Young 1 of 10
    Start 'Em Young
    Many vets and dog owners agree that it's a lot easier to help dogs deal with loud sounds like thunder, traffic, gun fire, etc. if they are repeatedly exposed to it when they are still puppies. For thunderstorms, this isn't always easy since we can't just call up a tempest anytime we want. But there are CDs of noises especially made for training young pups. So, if you have a juvenile dog in the learning stages, check out that option.
  • Toughing It Out 2 of 10
    Toughing It Out
    The worst thing any dog owner can do when their pooch is storm—panicked is to assume that the animal just has to tough it out. Do not confuse a dog's behavior during a storm with misbehavior, because it just isn't. As we'll see, there are quite a few ways to help calm your four-legged friends during storms. But just leaving them to "tough it out" is not one of them.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/terabithia4
  • Nothing but Cool 3 of 10
    Nothing but Cool
    It's extremely important for owners to remain calm, cool, and collected when dogs are stricken with fear or anxiety during a storm. Be certain to never implement any sort of punishment or scolding for their reactions to thunder and/or lightning. Remember, you wouldn't holler at a baby who was petrified at storm noise...and a dog's comprehension of storms is no more advanced than an infant's. Their fear is real and genuine, not an over-reaction.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/sukianto
  • The Art of Distraction 4 of 10
    The Art of Distraction
    One of the best things you can do to help a dog through a storm is to distract him. That's right, try and gain his attention with an indoor game he/she likes to play. Some people recommend soothing music, if your dog is known to react to that. And some even say that there is no better time than during a thunder-boomer to offer your pooch a nice helping of something delicious, like a beloved treat or bone. Heck, if you have kids in the house, why not get dressed up and have a parade around the kitchen with the dogs as the Grand Marshalls?! Anything you can do to help get your dog's mind off the outside world for a while will be a huge plus.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/mike_w40
  • Shut Out the World 5 of 10
    Shut Out the World
    It seems obvious, but don't forget to close all the windows in the house when a storm is making your dog antsy or just plain crazed. Draw the blinds, too. Anything you can do to shut out the outside world a bit will be a step in the right direction.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/estoril
  • Everything’s Gonna Be Alright 6 of 10
    Everything's Gonna Be Alright
    Offering your frightened dog reassurance during a thunderstorm is very important. We know the 'get tough' approach won't work with them, so it makes sense that hearing their owner's calm voice might just work a little magic. But remember to try and do this without being too coddling. There is debate about this, but it seems as if most dog owners agree that a steady calm voice, without a lot of baby talk or overly affectionate speak, works best.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/elisharene
  • I Like It Under Here, Thanks! 7 of 10
    I Like It Under Here, Thanks!
    Make certain to follow your dog's lead and let him/her go where they want during a storm. If they want to be under the couch, let them go there. Do they crawl into the bathtub? Bend the rules and allow it. Your dog will almost always gravitate to a place he feels comfortable when he is scared, so if yours wants to head under the covers or under the microwave cart, by all means, let them do it.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/nananio
  • Thunder Proof Duds 8 of 10
    Thunder Proof Duds
    Much has been written lately about the various 'shirts' out on the market for storm-stricken dogs. And as far as I can tell, there seems to be no real side effects or downside to trying one. With pressure directed at certain points on your pooch's body, these shirts, with names like the "Thunder Shirt" and "The Anxiety Wrap," claim to calm your dog during bad storms. These shirts are widely available on the internet and might just be worth a try.
    Photo Credit: caninesunlimited.com
  • A Box of Love 9 of 10
    A Box of Love
    Some dogs react so poorly to thunder and lightning that they can actually pose a threat to themselves. It's not their fault, of course, they are just mortified by what they don't understand. Still, if it appears that nothing else is working and your dog is crashing about the house in a reckless state, it's probably a great idea to get him into a crate for the time being before he can hurt himself.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/lovebuzz
  • Don’t Give Up on Me! 10 of 10
    Don't Give Up on Me!
    Listen, it's really nerve-wracking to have to watch a dog you love so much become frantic during a storm. But remind yourself that there ARE things that can help and ways to make it better. So don't ever give up trying. Talking to your vet can often lead to a variety of additional tips and techniques that will help both you and your little buddy make it through the storm in one piece and in peace.
    Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/c_x

 

You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.

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More from Serge:

Eat The Wind: 25 Supercool Dogs In Cars

Fairytail of New York: Pictures of a Big City Dog

Soul Survivors: The Stray Dogs of the Moscow Subway

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