My Dog is Terrified of Thunderstorms

Your hefty Labrador retriever, Ace, isn’t afraid of much. Ace holds his own at the dog park, and he even ignores your cat Misty’s claws when she swipes at him from behind the furniture. With all of Ace’s bluster, though, he’s deathly afraid of thunderstorms. When he detects the first distant rumble, Ace tries to climb under the nearest piece of furniture. As the storm gets closer, Ace starts to pace, and you’ve even seen him paw frantically at the baseboards. You’re afraid that Ace might hurt himself, so you’ve asked your Dunedin veterinarian to develop a strategy to address Ace’s thunderstorm phobia.

What’s Behind the Storm Anxiety

Several factors – perhaps more than one – can cause Ace’s storm anxiety. He might feel small shocks from pre-storm static electricity buildup. The deafening thunder booms might terrify him the most; or perhaps the blinding lightning flashes send Ace scrambling for cover. The screaming winds and barometric pressure fluctuations probably aren’t helping Ace, either. With a year-round climate that fosters regular thunderstorm activity, Ace’s storm anxiety can be triggered at any time.

Refuge From the Storm

Try to offer Ace a “safe haven” where he feels protected from the storm. Perhaps Ace can hide in an interior room while you play music that partially drowns out the din. Maybe another cozy nook or cranny, stuffed with Ace’s favorite blanket and a toy or two, would make a better storm refuge. Give Ace several choices of storm shelters. Don’t attempt to confine your frantic dog, as that will likely raise his anxiety level further.

Clothing Option

Perhaps you’ve seen the snug-fitting doggie sweaters and wraps, designed to help make anxious pooches feel safer when they’re under stress. While there’s no guarantee that this relatively inexpensive, non-prescription option will work, it might be worth a try. Get your vet’s opinion before you seriously consider the purchase.

Susceptible Breeds

While all dogs can fall victim to thunderstorm terrors, border collies and other herding breeds seem to be especially vulnerable to this phobia. If Ace had separation anxiety, or another fear-related issue, he might also be more at risk for thunderstorm-related panics.

Interestingly enough, some dogs come unglued over thunderstorms; however, they handle fireworks and other loud noises just fine. However, other dogs lose their cool over any unusually loud noise.

While the storm is raging, give Ace a sense of normalcy by giving him a familiar obedience command, such as “Down-Stay.” While Ace lies at your feet, reward his desirable behavior with plenty of belly rubs and ear scratches. While you might not completely distract your nervous dog, you can tell your Dunedin vet about Ace’s positive behavior during the evil thunderstorm.

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