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Thunder Phobia: 8 ways to help a dog that is afraid of thunder

Thunder Phobia: 8 ways to help a dog that is afraid of thunder from Greg Knows Dogs

Thunder Phobia, also known as dog thunderstorm anxiety, is a real concern for many pet owners. As Spring brings its share of storms, it’s crucial to equip yourself with strategies to help your furry friend navigate through the unsettling noises and chaos.

I’ve had a number of clients call about their dog’s unusual behavior and/or fear due to thunderstorms. With Spring here, we’re bound to have many storms in the next few weeks. 

Here are Greg Knows Dogs’ 8 tips to help a dog that is afraid of thunder:

Create a safe place

Ideally this would be her crate or bed. You may need to cover the crate with a blanket and close the curtains. In many cases, the dog will identify the safe place. One client’s dog chose the bathtub as her safe place. Put some favorite toys and water bowl in the safe place.

Secure her collar and tags

Make sure her microchip is up-to-date. Dogs with thunder phobia may bolt out the door, so confine her or make sure doors are locked.

Be normal

Don’t try to calm her with soothing voice tones that may be confused as praise. Behaving differently can be a cue for your dog to be concerned. 

Place a pet rescue alert sticker on your door or window

You’ll want rescue personnel to know about your pets in case of disaster in your home.

Block out the noise

In addition to blocking out the visual stimuli, we need to block the loud booms. You might turn on the TV, white noise machine or bathroom fan.  I’m a fan of bioacoustic music such as Through A Dog’s Ear downloadable music and noise. 

Calming alternatives

Alternatives to medical approaches are also useful.  Anxiety wraps such as Thundershirt have been successful. Some clients have had success with Bach’s Rescue Remedy or a pheromone calming collar. Some clients’ dogs have benefitted from aromatherapy such as Earth Heart’s Canine Calm. 

Desensitization or counterconditioning

Do you remember these terms from Psych 101?  Desensitization and counterconditioning can be used in any situation where your pet is fearful or anxious, to accustom her to the stimulus. It allows you to gradually increase the level of the stimulus and pair each exposure with a favored reward. These techniques can be successful but take time.

Medicine

Talk to your veterinarian about prescriptions that may help.

Almost all of these suggestions will need to be practiced and implemented before the storms arrive. So take advantage of the calm (literally before the storm) and start preparing your dog.

Greg Knows Dogs provides in-home dog training in Virginia’s Bayview, Chelsea, Ghent, Larchmont and Ocean View neighborhoods.