Do Storms Scare Your Dog?

I saw on the news that we have some severe storms in the forecast in the Nashville area, boy do we need some rain here in Lawnton Au.  I thought an article about dogs that are afraid of storms might be good for this week’s article.

Picture yourself as a dog.  Now think of a storm approaching and what it sounds like.  There may be crashing thunder and jagged lightning bolts across the sky.  What on earth does it sound and look like to a dog?  No wonder so many dogs are scared by storms!

Dogs have no idea what causes storms.  They are one of the scariest things in nature.  It’s no surprise that lots of dogs may give a little cry or feel like hiding under the bed when a storm approaches.  A big crash of thunder that shakes the house can make a lot of people feel like hiding, too!  The real issue is what you can do to help your dog when storms come.  Can you offer some real comfort?  If your dog is trying to climb in your lap or hide under the bed, is there anything you can really do to help your dog feel better?

Is It Really the Storm?

It is important to make sure that your dog is scared of the storm before you start offering comfort.  If your dog isn’t anxious about the storm, the last thing you want to do is start trying to comfort your dog when he’s not scared about the lightning or the thunder.  If your dog is actually whining about his ball being under the sofa and you start trying to comfort him, then you’ll only be making things worse.

Try to find out what is upsetting your dog when he whines or whimper.  Make sure that the storm is actually in full force when your dog reacts.  Your dog may try to climb in your lap or in your bed.  He may ignore commands that he normally follows.  You should be able to tell if your dog is reacting to the storm.

If your dog is having a reaction to the storm he will be following his feelings.  He may bark or wine.  He may bite at the furniture or chew on it. He could even forget his house training temporarily.  He may shake uncontrollably.

How to Deal with Storm Phobias

Some people allow their dog to go on having a negative reaction to the storm each time a storm occurs.  They may ignore the dog, figuring they can’t do anything for him.  Other people may try to comfort the dog, believing that it will help.

Actually, neither of those methods is very useful.

In order to help your dog handle storms you will need to try to comfort your dog without encouraging your dog to be scared.  If you comfort your dog too much it will encourage your dog to be scared.  Your dog will believe there is actually something to be afraid of.  Too much comfort creates a problem atmosphere.

When a storm is approaching you should talk to your dog in a calm, relaxed voice.  But you don’t want to sound like a pushover.  Don’t give your dog the impression that you will allow him to do what he wants or get away with destructive behaviors.  Use a happy voice to reassure your dog and combine it with pleasant distractions such as playing games and giving treats.

Try to get your dog to focus on you instead of what’s happening with the weather.  You will often achieve positive results this way.  Do not leave a dog outside during a storm.

It often helps if your dog has a special place of his own where he feels safe and comfortable.  However don’t put your dog in a crate if you think that it may hurt itself trying to escape.  You can also reduce the noise of the storm by playing music or keeping the television on during the storm.

Your dog will still feel the storm going on outside.  Their senses are much keener than ours.  But if you provide some good distractions it can help keep your dog’s mind off the things that frighten him.

Extreme Cases of Fear

This advice does work for mild to moderate cases of storm phobia.  A calm voice and a supportive family can work wonders for most dogs.  But there are cases where some dogs have much more difficult storm phobias that are harder to control.

You might want to do a Google search for “thunder shirts” or “thunderstorm CD for dogs”.  These items can help a more severe case of storm phobia.

If your dog has a case of storm phobia that is so severe that he tries to hurt himself or he can’t be controlled, you should contact your veterinarian.  There are some good medications that can be used to help dogs during thunderstorms.  Some of the drugs are used as sedatives and some reduce anxiety.

More than anything else, keep in mind that the health and happiness of your dog are most important.  If you remember those things, then you will be able to help your dog through any storm.

Mark Mansfield
 

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