Dealing with Thunder and Dogs

Originally published June 27, 2014

There is thunder. Cochise tries desperately to tell Doug that something HORRIBLE is going on outside and that he NEEDS to come check it out. But, alas, Doug is not paying attention. What ever is a Guardian of the Realm to do?

We’re kind of poking fun here, but some dogs can be seriously stressed out by loud noises like thunder, fireworks and gun shots. What can be done to calm them?

Turn it to Training

You can redirect your dogs’ attention by having a little training session while fireworks are going off or during thunder storms. Close all the windows, turn radio or TV up, and get some high value treats. Turn the situation into a little game and now there’s much less anxiety.

Provide a Safe Spot (hidey hole)

Of course they also have their “safe” spot they seek if the storm is really intense. hiding from thunder

For Dolly that was always in our bedroom closet. As a young dog she had been shot in a hunting accident (before she came to live with us) so gun shots and thunder terrified this normally stalwart guardian.

Other suggestions would be to cover their crate in several thick blankets, or use a transport box with lots of cushioning inside.

The Mighty Thunder Shirt

Thunder shirt
Credit: Jenifer Parry-Steele

Many dog parents have found a special garment called a Thundershirt that places pressure on specific parts of the dog’s body makes a tremendous difference in calming a dog during stressful situations.

How it Works: The Thundershirt wrap works by applying constant, gentle pressure to the animal’s torso. This has a significant calming effect for most dogs.

What it Treats: The Thundershirt is designed to address common problems including fear of thunder and fireworks, separation anxiety and generalized anxiety, problem barking and jumping, travel stress, and more.

High Success Rate: The wrap offers a success rate of more than 80% — dramatically reducing stress and anxiety for most dogs.

Vet and Trainer Recommended: Thundershirts are embraced by professionals; thousands of veterinarians and dog trainers recommend Thundershirt to their clients.

Advice from a Pro

The following tips were condensed from an article by golden retriever owner Gwen Thee:

Crate Training
Crate-trained dogs may cope better during the storm if confined to their own safe place. An airline crate, or a wire crate that is covered, may work better than an open wire crate.

Calm Reassurance
Some dogs need to be reassured that there is nothing to fear. If the storm makes you nervous, your dog may be picking that up. However, be careful not to inadvertently rewarding the dog for a fear reaction. If you positively reinforce fear reactions with soothing sounds or stroking when the dog exhibits fear, the reactions will continue.

By ignoring the storm and carrying on with a normal routine, you convey that the storm is no big deal. Another way to reassure the dog without reinforcing the fear reaction is to massage or brush your dog in long even strokes.

Positive Reinforcement
If your dog has a favorite indoor game, or a special treat, try to absorb him in that during the storm. Practice this during storms, and hopefully the dog will eventually associate the storm with good things.

Noise Desensitization
Exposing your dog to different loud noises, and always making sure something good happens, can help to reduce the dog’s sensitivity to loud noises. You can play tapes of storms, starting at a low volume and working up to very high volume, and stroke, play with, and teach the dog to ignore the sound. (K-9 Consultants produced a tape with sound effects and instructions available at some pet supply outlets or by calling 800-952-6517.)

Severe Reactions
These may require behavior modification (see a canine behavior specialist) and/or drug therapy involving such drugs as Tranxene and buspirone, or beta-blockers such as Propanolol and Inderol (administered only by a veterinarian).

Deal with Static Electricity

Though it may sound like voodoo, your dog can also become sensitized to the electromagnetic radiation caused by lightning strikes. One great way to shield your dog from these potentially fear-provoking waves is to cover her crate with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Another method involves clothing her in a commercially available “Storm Defender” cape that does the same work. If she hides under the bed, consider slipping a layer of aluminum foil between the box-spring and mattress.[1]

Your Turn

Do you have a favorite way to deal with your dog’s anxiety during noisy situations? Please share them in a comment below.

Want to help
save lives?

If you enjoy our updates, Doggy Tales, and educational articles consider subscribing for notices when new pieces are posted. It’s painless and you can unsubscribe any time you want. Your e-mail address is used ONLY to deliver these notices. [email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]
Wrapped Up In Love
Major FAS: Notes on a foster dog