Why Does My Dog... Panic During Storms?

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Whoosh, flash . . . boom! Do thunderstorms make your dog quiver, cower and hide?

Experts don’t know why some pups are so bothered by storms, while others don’t flinch, but issues with noise tend to occur in canines who have other fear-related problems, such as separation anxiety. This link suggests that there may be a genetic predisposition to storm stress.

What to Do When a Storm Strikes

According to board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Sueda, DVM, of the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, there are two ways to approach storm-induced panic. The first pertains to coping with the dog’s fear while the thunderstorm is happening — and the second involves preparing for future storms.

Dr. Sueda offers three key ways to help your dog when a storm hits:

Make sure that your pooch has a safe place to retreat. This could be a crate, a spare bedroom or simply a quiet room with closed windows — and possibly some background music — to block out the sounds of heavy rain and high winds.

Be there for your dog, but don’t coddle her. Overly comforting your pup may reinforce the fearful behavior, making it harder to weather future storms. Stay in the same room as your dog, but don’t overattend to her. Instead, distract her by offering to play with toys, and reward calm behavior. If she’s too nervous to play, simply sit in the same space with her.

Try to stay calm yourself. A placid owner will further help a dog to relax.

How to Prep Before the Next Storm

Once you know that your dog suffers from storm stress, there are a few things that Dr. Sueda says you can do to address the anxiety ahead of time:

Start the process of desensitizing your dog to storm noises. Consider investing in a CD of thunderstorm sounds for dogs, which can be played to gradually get the pup used to hearing the crack of lightning and the whoosh of wind. At first, you play the sounds very low while the dog is doing an activity that she loves — such as eating or playing — and then you gradually increase the volume level over time.

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