Storm phobia in dogs is no laughing matter. The sounds of thunder, pouring rain and intense lightning can trigger extreme anxiety in your pet. Although you know he is not really in danger, a dog afflicted with this phobia can actually hurt himself and others, not to mention the damage he can cause to property, in an effort to escape the “threat.” Here are some tips to try to stop your dog’s thunderstorm phobia in its tracks.
The sooner you identify your dog’s thunderstorm phobia, the easier it will be to stop it. The phobia is unlikely to go away on its own and each subsequent storm will escalate your dog’s anxiety. Don’t ignore the symptoms and make him “tough it out.” Offering reassurance and treats during a storm can help put your dog at ease as he learns to associate storms with positive, undivided attention.
Setting up a crate is not only useful for potting training. A crate signifies a safe place for your dog, similar to a den or a cave in the wild. When the thunder starts clapping, place your dog in his crate, surrounded by familiar toys and blankets, and stay close while the storm blows through. If you don’t see your dog’s anxiety level drop from this step, place a heavy blanket over the crate to better “hide” him and to provide some insulation from the sound.
Another approach is to take your dog into an interior room in your home, like a bathroom or closet. Turn on some soothing music, run a fan or other “white noise” to drown out the sound of the storm. Don’t forget to lavish him with positive attention.
Desensitizing your dog is another process to cure his phobia. Play thunderstorm sounds through a speaker system while it’s sunny outside. Start with the volume low and continue to increase it over the course of a few weeks. Always gauge your dog’s reaction and scale it back if he shows signs of anxiety.
Sometimes positive reinforcement isn’t enough. Take your dog to the veterinarian if his symptoms don’t improve. The vet may decide that an anti-anxiety medication is the best solution.
Whatever method you try, don’t give up on helping your dog overcome his fear of thunderstorms. Although it will take time and dedication, curing your dog’s phobia can be the difference between a normal life and heartbreak.