Calming Your Dog AroundThunder
Something about thunder is just a trigger for anxiety in dogs. Well, there’s not much mystery around that “something” really. It’s pretty clear that a loud, booming noise from seemingly no place is grounds to freak a dog right the heck out (and sometimes people, too). But dogs are trainable, so there must be something you can do to prevent dogs from freaking out in a thunderstorm, right? Well, yes! Dogs who fear thunder need some special help, but here are a few things you can do to help them get over their anxiety.
One of the most important things you can do is check your attitude around your scared dog. When thunder starts crashing and your dog starts whining, it’s vital that you don’t scold them or something like that. Rather, you’ll want to comfort and reassure them that everything is okay. Teaching them that being afraid of something is worth punishment will only confuse them further and add unnecessary stress to the mix.
However, you don’t want to coddle your dog either. Similar to children, your pup may run up to you, confused and scared, and look to you to determine how to react. Making a big deal about the noise will solidify that it’s something to worry about, or treating your dog like they’re suffering from a severe trauma will make your pooch believe that their life truly is in danger and that things are more serious than they thought. Rather, pick a reassuring stance, so tell your dog that everything’s fine, it’s just thunder, and give them positive attention with ear scratches and treats and playing and such. You want the experience to be a positive one, not a negative one.
And more on that, there is a way to slowly acclimate your dog to the sound of thunder to the point that they feel it’s perfectly alright. You’ll need to get an audio recording of thunder, then play it at a much quieter tone every so often. If you dog doesn’t react negatively to the sound, give them a treat to show them that ignoring the sound is good, or more specifically, the sound of thunder can be a positive (treats). Progressively increase the volume over the course of a few days, always giving your dog treats as they react in a positive way. If they get freaked out by the recording, turn it down and get them more comfortable with the quieter setting.
If there seems to be just no way around it, you’ll still want to prepare for their panic. Don’t leave them outside turning a thunderstorm as the noise will be far greater and they could get so freaked out that they burrow under the backyard fence to escape or leap the fence entirely, and don’t say that they can’t because a scared dog can do a lot you wouldn’t expect.
Once they’re inside, be sure to provide them with a comfortable and safe hiding place. Do they tend to go camp out under the dining room table? Well, give them a pillow and let them be. They’re just working through this ordeal in their own way, and if they’re not hurting you, themselves, or anything else, just let them go to where they feel most comfortable and allow them to rest there.
Also, you can try getting them specific thunder vests, which sound like something pretty fancy but are just vests that fit snug on their torso, providing a bit of pressure and imitating a comforting hug or something similar. Many dogs seem to respond well to this, so if you’re looking for any way to help out, this may be worth looking into for you.
Dogs are just prone to panic when the clouds are thundering, so you might as well be ready for it. Be kind, be smart, and do what you can to help your pooch cope.
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