A dog who is afraid of loud noises can create anxiety for the whole family. Here are some tips for soothing your storm or fireworks troubled dog.
6 Easy Ways to Calm a Dog that
is Scared of Thunder and Storms
Storm Anxiety Quick Fixes:
1 Play! Depending on your dog's level of anxiety, simply distracting him may be the best course of action. A clinging, pacing dog will be easier to distract than a panicked, hiding dog. Play, sing songs, exercise the dog as much as you can to try and wear her out. Help your dog associate thunder with a fabulous playtime! Repeated over time, your dog can come to associate rumbles of thunder with FUN!
2 Crate your dog or move their bedding into a enclosed space like a closet. A dog who feels "safe" will be less anxious, and a "den" is the instinctual place for a dog to go to feel safe. It may help to cover your dog's crate with a blanket or sheet to create a den feeling, thick blankets
3 Create as much white noise as you can. Fans, TV's, radios, etc. Your dogs hearing is so good he'll still be able to hear the thunder, but may find other sound distracting.
4 Purchase a Thundershirt, a stretchy dog blanket that fits a dog's chest tightly, to apply soothing pressure. Deep pressure is very calming to dogs (and people) and this is known to be extremely effective for many dogs.
5 Over the counter sedatives (Like "Rescue Remedy") or veterinary prescriptions like Ace or Valium are a good short term treatment- although not available in an emergency. In a pinch, you can give your dog benedryl and the side effect of drowsiness may take the edge off of anxiety. See Benedryl dosing recommendations for dogs.
6 Tough love. Both in the short term and long term, one of the most important things you can do is not to baby your dog. Cooing and petting are both "rewarding" actions. Never respond to a dog's anxiety or any undesirable behavior with petting and cooing or you may accidentally train the dog to behave that way to receive your attention.
Rather than babying your scared dog, try:
- singing a silly song!
- sqeaking toys!
- have her do all her tricks for treats, and then do them again!
- yawning repeatedly (yes, really!). Repeat big, loud, exaggerated yawns- you are your dog's leader, and dogs understand body language. If you are relaxed, they will respond.
Long Term Solutions
Long term solutions to storm and firework anxiety revolve around retraining your dog to associate loud noises with good things.
For dogs scared of "bangs", check out Dale Burrier's article, "The Paper Bag Game - Desensitizing Your Dog to Loud Noises"
For other anxieties, try desensitization CDs. You can by CDs that contain all the common sounds that dogs are afraid of. You can begin playing these CDs at a barely audible level at meal times, play times, and all the "happiest" times of the day. Over the course of weeks you can turn the volume up and after several months your dog should respond to the sound thunder or fireworks with interest or even excitement.
Did this method work for you? Tell us about it! We'd love to hear your thoughts.
A very helpful email we received from a visitor regarding clothing an anxious dog in a tight shirt during fireworks:
Hi, I viewed your site looking for suggestions for our new rescued pooch whom we suddenly learned is afraid of storms. I noticed your site mentioned donning a tight tshirt on a dog to help them calm & that no one knew why it worked. Well, I know why it works and I thought I'd share if you're interested.
I am an occupational therapist & I work with kids. Humans (and dogs) respond to proprioceptove input (pressure on joints that tell us where our body is in space) with a calming reaction. Ever see a person ring their hands when nervous? They are applying pressure to joints to self-calm. Same reason babies suck their thumbs & why chewing gum or eating crunchy foods helps people stay focused (the largest condensed amount of proprioceptors in the body are in the mouth). In therapy with kids, we use weighted vests, spandex shirts/shorts, and therapy-grade clothing invented specifically for the purpose of applying pressure to the body to facilitate a calming response. This is the same reason why a tight shirt on a dog might help calm them as well. Same reason babies like to be swaddled, why people like hugs, etc. deep pressure is calming.
Thundershirt uses proprioceptove input therapy (i.e. deep soothing pressure) to calm anxious dogs in stressful situations.
Purchase one today to speed or even skip the desensitization process.