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6 Ways to Calm Your Dog During a Thunderstorm
Every spring at my house heralded a new round of thunderstorms and a new panic attack by my adopted German Shepherd Dog, Ranger. While my other dogs fell asleep during thunderstorms, he would shiver and shake in terror. It only grew worse over time, and there wasn't much I could do that calmed his fears.
The truth is that thunderstorm phobia is relatively common. There appears to be some anecdotal evidence that suggests that certain breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs and herding breeds may be more prone to fear of thunderstorms but any dog may suffer from fear of lightning and thunder.
Don't Force Your Dog to Face His Fears or Tough It Out
If you want to make matters worse, ignore your dog's fears, or worse yet, force him to face them. Dogs don't see that the thunderstorm didn't harm them; they see that it was really awful and it worsens their fear. You can cause your dog to panic or bite by forcing him to endure loud noises or leaving him outside. What's more, you may cause him to hurt himself trying to get away.
Provide a Safe Place Indoors Away from the Noise
Your dog will feel more secure with you and in a crate rather than outside or in a place where the thunder is loud. You can reduce the effect of the thunder by playing music or having the TV on. Cuddling your dog is okay as is providing him a calm and reassuring environment. The more muffled you can make the outside noise, the less stressful it will be.
Fear of Thunder
Where does your dog hide when he hears thunder?
Associate Thunderstorms with Good Things.
This is a bit tricky, but you can associate the thunderstorm with something positive. Give your dog treats, put on a movie you both enjoy, and play with your dog. Give him something wonderful to chew. If he's having fun, he may not have time to worry about the loud noise associated with thunder.
ThunderShirts or Other Calming Devices
Sometimes playing specially soothing music developed for calming dogs, or using ThunderShirts can help calm your dog. Both require an introduction to them before the storm. Introduce them in a positive environment with lots of treats so that your dog associates both positively.
Try Homeopathic or Herbal Calming Remedies, but Be Prepared to Ask Your Veterinarian for Help
Sometimes using homeopathic or herbal calming remedies can help calm your dog, but they aren't always effective on all dogs. If yours is particularly sensitive to thunder, consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can offer anti-anxiety medications that will help take the edge off his phobia.
Consult with a Veterinarian Approved Behaviorist
Sometimes the only thing you can do is work towards desensitizing your dog to the thunderstorms. A veterinarian-approved behaviorist can slowly introduce your dog to his fears in a safe and controlled environment to where your dog can be desensitized to them. This work takes a while and may need an expert to determine how to proceed without causing more anxiety.
© 2014 Maggie Bonham