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Surviving A Thunderstorm... With Your Dog

Updated on June 1, 2015

On Saturday afternoon we were under a 'sever thunderstorm warning'. Now personally, I hate the idea of a severe thunderstorm because it implies just that - severe thunderstorms. What is the difference between a thunderstorm and a severe thunderstorm? Is there a reason severe thunderstorms require a warning? But today's hub is not about me. It is about my five year old golden retriever Murray, who was less than thrilled about Saturday's weather, and what you can do to help your dog deal with thunderstorms.

About an hour before I started hearing thunder in the distance, I noticed a change in Murray. In the blink of an eye this dog seemed to lose her ability to settle. She exhibited many of the usual signs of an anxious dog - she became clingy, and she started panting, pacing and wimpering. Even when she tried to lie down, she was unable to lie completely still - she had to continuously move either one of her back legs or her head.

Your dog may start showing signs of anxiety long before you hear the thunder
Your dog may start showing signs of anxiety long before you hear the thunder

Compared to some dogs (like my childhood golden, Duke), Murray is an absolute dream in a thunderstorm. Usually, Murray is able to overcome her anxiety on her own within ten minutes, but every now and then she requires a little assistance.

There are many things that you can do to make 'surviving' a thunderstorm with your dog easier.

For starters, stay calm. This is sometimes a bit of a challenge for me because I still tend to experience 'thunderstorm anxiety'. But our dogs will feed off of our stress or anxiety. By relaxing or simply sticking to our normal routine, we are letting our dogs know that everything is okay.

Avoid consoling a nervous dog as this can actually encourage a negative reaction to thunder. Never scold a dog for being nervous, just don't reward them for it. Instead, reward calm behavior.

Try to distract your dog during a thunderstorm. We feed our dog Murray a raw diet and at least once a week I find myself using a raw meaty bone as a distraction. A KONG with your dog's favorite filling may also help keep their mind off the storm. If you don't want to use food as a distraction, try using their toys. The ChuckIt! Indoor Ball is great for playing fetch indoors. You can also try brushing him or simply petting him.

Depending on the severity of your dog's anxiety, you may be able to distract them from the storm using their favorite toys
Depending on the severity of your dog's anxiety, you may be able to distract them from the storm using their favorite toys

Keep your dog indoors - it is the safest place. But try to avoid confining your dog to a specific room as confinement can worsen anxiety.

Consider using natural remedies such as aromatherapy to help ease your dog's storm anxiety.

I have heard positive feedback about the Thundershirt, homemade anxiety wraps, and even rubbing dryer sheets over a dog's fur, however, I have no personal experience using these methods.

Personally, I don't feel safe rubbing a Bounce sheet on my dog. Do you?

See results

Do not ignore your dog's thunderstorm anxiety or assume your dog will grow out of it. An anxious dog can become destructive and possibly injure themselves. Consult your veterinarian if your dog's thunderstorm anxiety does not improve. Medication (such as a mild sedative) may be prescribed.

An anxious dog can easily become destructive
An anxious dog can easily become destructive

Does your dog suffer from thunderstorm anxiety? If so, what steps do you take to ease their anxiety during a storm?

© 2015 Marley

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