6 Ways to Help Your Dog Stay Calm During Storms
Storms can be stressful to dogs and cause situational anxiety to kick in. They are loud, lightning and thunder can be overwhelming to the senses, and they are something that dogs don’t have to deal with on a regular basis, making them feel unfamiliar and, therefore, scary.
If your dog experiences storm phobia, you can probably easily pick up on the indicators that their stress has been triggered. Some dogs will seek out a dark and enclosed space like a closet or under the bed. Some will pace or seek their human’s companionship. Some may even become destructive, engaging in activities like scratching the door or ripping up pillows. And if they are experiencing higher anxiety, they may even go to the bathroom in the house. All dogs experience fear differently and respond differently to stressful situations.
If your dog is one who gets frightened or stressed during storms, there are a few things you can do to help ease their anxieties.
- Provide a safe area
If you know a storm is coming or already underway, you may want to create an area your dog can go to in order to feel safe. This should be a room where no sun comes in and no windows are present. It could be a closet, bathroom, or remote bedroom. Maybe even their crate covered with a blanket if your dog enjoys their crate and sees it as a comfortable place. Bring your dog’s favorite items into the safe zone to provide additional comfort and calming by setting up their bed with their most loved toys and treats, and perhaps a sound machine or the TV to further block out the stressor.
- Block out the noise and visibility of the storm
Much like the provided safe space, one of the best ways to help your dog during a stressful storm is to block out the stressor as much as possible. A room or space that does not show them what is happening outside will make them feel calmer. If they are in a room with windows, draw the blinds so they cannot see any lightning. A soothing sound machine, soft TV, or even mellow music are also all great options to drown out the thunderclaps and water pelting.
- Provide companionship and reassurance
It’s important that your dog knows they are safe when stressed, and your companionship and love show them that maybe it isn’t so scary. However, if your dog does not respond to stress by clinging to your side, then you don’t want to bombard them when they are feeling anxious either. A little reassurance might calm them, but if your dog seeks out a cozy space to curl up on their own, then they probably want to be left alone in their safe zone so that they know it is their space. Occasional check-ins, treats, and kisses go a long way while otherwise letting them rest and relax on their own.
As we discussed, noise distractions are great during storms, but make sure the noise chosen is soothing so that your dog’s senses aren’t further overloaded. Your dog might also benefit from other distractions like games and food puzzles! If they are not overly stressed, they may enjoy a game of tug of war or a frozen peanut butter stuffed treat puzzle to keep them occupied. If a dog’s situational anxiety is mild, then they can possibly engage in other activities that bring them joy without having their attention drawn to the storm. However, if their stress over storms is more severe, then the safe space, mellow noise, reassurance, and so on will suit their needs much better.
- Work on desensitization
Between storms, play recordings of thunderstorms for your dog. Start at a lower volume while giving them plenty of reassurance throughout, and gradually increase the volume over the course of the sessions while monitoring their stress level. Try this a few times a week while adjusting the degree of noise, just like any other training regimen, and see if it makes a difference by the next storm while also implementing their other anxiety-lessening tools! You may also want to consult with a behavioral specialist to work with your dog on overcoming situational anxiety.
- Calming aids like hemp
Sometimes, in addition to these other techniques, your dog might just need a little extra assistance when it comes to calming down. Our powerful Wonder Paws Hemp Oil with Alaskan salmon oil not only includes omegas that support healthy skin and joints, but it is also formulated to support calmness. Our Hemp Oil is perfect for the moments when your dog is occasionally stressed, anxious, or simply needs some calming Zen.
You should always consult with your vet about serious anxiety or other concerns. If none of these techniques provide improvement to your dog’s occasional stress, then they may need greater attention to address the issue. It’s no fun to see our best friends dealing with situational anxiety, but hopefully these tips can help them to weather the storm! And remember, the storm always passes, so keep calm and love dogs!
Shay Siegel is a young adult author, freelance writer, and editor from Long Island, NY. She has a BA from Tulane University and an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Always a lover of animals, Shay had several cats growing up. She's now a dog mom to the snuggliest rescue pit bull, Bernie. She enjoys writing on a variety of topics and sharing her love and knowledge of animals with others!