Fear of thunderstorms and thunder is not uncommon among dogs. When there is lightning and a bang outside, they flee to a corner, become restless, tremble, or start barking. Affected dogs often show this behavior long before the thunderstorm starts. Where exactly this fear comes from is unclear. Some dogs only develop fear when they are old, while other dogs don’t seem to mind a storm at all. Dogs that are afraid of storms also show behavior on New Year’s Eve.
Remain calm and composed
As a dog owner, you cannot take away your dog’s fear, but you can make the stressful time a little more bearable for your four-legged friend. Above all, it is important to remain calm and relaxed, because your state of mind is easily transferred to the dog. Even if it is difficult, you should avoid soothing words and comforting caresses. Because that only strengthens the fear and confirms the dog in its actions. You shouldn’t punish your dog for its behavior either, because punishment would only intensify the basic problem. It is best to spread calm and ignore both the thunderstorm and your dog’s anxious behavior altogether.
Provide a distraction
Playful dogs and puppies can be distracted with simple fetching, catching, or hide-and-seek games or even treats. The same applies here: A happy mood is quickly transferred to the dog. You can also grab a brush during a thunderstorm and care for the fur – this distracts, has a relaxing effect, and signals to your dog that the situation is nothing unusual.
Dogs exhibiting fearful behavior during a thunderstorm should be allowed to retreat. For example, the dog box can be a familiar and protective place for the dog, or a quiet spot under the bed or a table. Also, close all windows and doors as soon as a thunderstorm is imminent so that the noise stays outside. Some dogs also like to seek out a small, windowless room (such as a bathroom or toilet) as a thunderstorm hiding place and wait there until the spook is over.
Acupressure, homeopathy, and fragrances
A special massage technique – Tellington Touch – can also have a calming and relaxing effect on some dogs. With the Tellington Ear Touch, for example, you stroke the dog in regular strokes from the base of the ear to the tip of the ear. Homeopathic remedies can also relieve anxiety or provide short-term help in stressful situations. Clinical tests have also shown that special fragrances – so-called pheromones – have a calming and stress-reducing effect on dogs. Calming pheromones are odor messengers that bitches produce in their teats a few days after the birth of their puppies. These fragrances, which are imperceptible to humans, are contained as synthetic replicas in collars, sprays, or atomizers, for example.
In the case of very sensitive and anxious dogs, desensitization training may also help. With the help of a noise CD, the dog gets used to unfamiliar noises – such as thunder or loud crackers – step by step. Calming medication should only be used in extreme cases and after consultation with the veterinarian.