Many dogs are afraid of storms, and it’s easy to see why. Imagine for a moment what rolling thunder must sound like to a dog. With his acute sense of hearing, it must sound like an army of giants approaching!
Then there are the strange flashes of light in the sky. No wonder many dogs tremble and whine.
Dogs of course have no concept of what a storm is. They just know that it is strange and loud, and many of them are terrified of it. As a dog owner, your concern should be how to comfort to your dog in these circumstances.
Dog Afraid of Storms: Be Sure of the Cause
The first thing you’ll want to do is to be certain that it is the storm that is causing your dog’s distress. It is easy to jump to conclusions, but the fear may stem from something else entirely.
For example, during a storm lightning may light up a corner of the room where there is an object that triggers the dog’s fear. This may be nothing more sinister than a lampshade, but in the strange light it may resemble something that makes the dog afraid.
This is clearly not a dog afraid of storms, but rather one afraid of a perceived hidden danger.
If you now start comforting the dog against the storm you could actually trigger a whole new phobia. Dogs can be pretty neurotic creatures, so be sure.
A good way to figure if you are dealing with a dog afraid of storms is to pay attention to his reaction when the storm is at its peak. If this heightens his fear, for example causing him to whimper and shake or hide under a couch or bed, it is likely that the storm is the cause of his fear.
Dog Afraid of Storms: How to Deal with Storm Phobia
Most people respond to a dog afraid of storms in one of two ways. They either ignore the dog knowing that he will calm down once the storm has blown over, or they cuddle and comfort the dog hoping it will calm him down. Neither approach is helpful.
The best way to deal with an anxious dog during a storm is through a combination of calmness and distraction.
Remain calm yourself and speak to the dog in a calm voice. Don’t however, “baby” the dog no matter how tempting it may be to do so. It will only encourage him to repeat the behavior in order to get your attention.
The other thing you should do is to create a diversion. Distract the dog from the storm by playing a game or giving him a treat or a favorite toy.
While you’ll want to be calm and supportive to the dog during the storm you should also be firm. A dog that is terrified of the weather will often react by barking, whining, snapping, jumping up on furniture, urinating on the floor, and so on.
None of this behavior should be tolerated, but remember to remain calm when correcting the dog.
Something else I should mention is that dogs that are normally outside, should be brought indoors, if they are afraid of storms. A terrified dog may hurt himself trying to escape from the property, and if he succeeds in escaping you may never see your dog again.
Bring the dog inside and let him see out the storm in an area where he feels safe an secure. Don’t however confine him to a crate or small area as he may injure himself if he panics and tries to break out of his confines.
Dog Afraid of Storms: Extreme Cases of Storm Phobia
So far we’ve spoken about mild cases of storm related fear. There are however more severe cases in which none of the methods mentioned above will have any effect.
If your dog’s fear becomes such that you are unable to control him. If he injures himself and causes serious damage to property due to his fear, then the wise course is to consult a vet.
There are sedatives and and anxiety medications which the vet can prescribe in severe cases, and these will often be effective.
Remember that the well-being of your pet comes first and while the phobia may seem irrational to you, to the dog it is a terrifying reality.
If you have a dog afraid of storms, treat the problem with the seriousness it deserves.