Some ways to help!
Stay calm. Adopt a neutral, matter-of-fact attitude.Our dogs reflect back to us all of our emotions and are highly affected by how we feel and behave. If we appear “freaked out” you are telling your dog that you are not in control and your dog will suffer the added stress of a “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” thought process because he or she is certainly not in any shape to be in control either!
Comfort your dog but be careful not to “coddle” them. Remember, dogs perceive human emotions on a very literal and basic level. If you are using a voice that is full of sympathy and worry, it translates to your dog as weakness and, yes, even instability and fear. Be confident or appear that you are, even if you are not. Use a calm and confident tone of voice and be sure to hold your body in a confident posture! You’d be surprised how much difference your body stance and language can make with animals.
If your dog has a spot in the house where they like to go and hide and they seem to feel calmer and safe there, LET THEM! Do not try to force them out from under the bed (or whatever spot they go to for safety) if they are able to go there and get relief from the fear. If they go and hide but constantly whine, shake, whimper, etc. that’s a different situation and you need to intercede.
Helping a dog get over fear of storms or other loud noises (like any other modification of behavior or emotional response) is a process. Download, buy or Youtube thunderstorm sounds and play them at a volume just below your dog’s trigger threshold. Simultaneously play a fun game or do a little obedience and give a few treats occasionally in order to keep your dog engaged. This is counter conditioning through positive association and it is a powerful tool. It must be started when no storms are on the horizon. You can raise the volume in increments and the amount of time it will take depends completely on your commitment to the rehabilitation and your dog’s commitment to the fear. Every dog is different just like humans and each learns, un-learns and changes how they feel about things at their own pace. Please, please, be patient and empathetic. Remember, animals, by instinct, search for comfort and safety from storms. They are by no means meant to be “storm chasers.” 🙂
There are some natural supplements and “tools” you can try: Lactium (sold by Swanson vitamins under the label “Women’s Anti-Stress Formula”, dosage 15 mg/kg, and L-theanine, dosage 5mg/kg. Once or twice a day. Very large safety margin, no particular side effects — basically they either help or don’t. ESSENTIAL OILS! Learn about them and use them! They are amazing!
Some recommended music/sound therapy: Through A Dog’s Ear series of CDs and/or a “white noise” machine. There are recent studies indicating that many dogs respond positively to audio books. The sound of a calming human voice, for some dogs, may be more effective than music.
Some dogs are comforted by “swaddling” and for those dogs adding a Thunder Shirt or a T-touch wrap may be helpful.
Remember, if you try to “coddle” your dog during thes
well before the storm begins.
Above all, be kind and patient throughout the thunderstorm. Do whatever you can to calm your pet without adding to their stress and anxiety. If they need to follow your every step, let them. That means being close to you makes them feel better and, after all, they make us feel better all the time without even being asked. Unconditional love deserves the return of same and this is an easy one. 🙂e times, it can be counter-productive. They sense the upset and emotion in your voice. Instead, reassure them in a confident manner to let them know “I’ve got this. It’s fine.” Be the leader and let your dog know that you are not afraid.