10 Tips to Relieve Storm Anxiety in Dogs

Do fireworks or thunderstorms make your dog go crazy? Try these simple, effective tips to calm your dog during storms!

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We’ve had our dog Zelda for three years now. As a puppy, thunderstorms didn’t seem to bother her much, but as she got older, she developed a full-on phobia of storms. As soon as she felt that first rumble of thunder, it was like her brain switched off and she couldn’t settle down or stop fretting. It got to the point were worried that she would seriously hurt herself if we weren’t home to calm her!

Signs of Storm Anxiety In Dogs

If your dogs has storm anxiety, you probably already know it! However, it may be helpful to know that your dog is not weird and that these are common reactions to thunderstorms:

  • Increased panting
  • Trembling (looks like shivering)
  • Pacing
  • Trying to hide in unusual places
  • Crying or barking
  • Trying to bite or claw out of their crate
  • Destructive behavior

It’s thought that as many as 30% of dogs suffer from storm-related anxiety or phobias. (Source)

So just know that even though these behaviors are inconvenient, your dog is still normal. And also know that there are many things you can do to help divert their attention and lessen their anxiety.

10 Ways To Calm Storm Anxiety In Dogs

While I am not personally a vet, these are steps that are often recommended by vets and things that our family actually does to help our dog get through storms safely.

These strategies can also be helpful if your dog reacts fearfully to similar loud noises, such as fireworks.

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1. Talk to Them

Now, this won’t be practical if you’re not home. However, this is the easiest and fastest way to help your dog relax. Let them know you’re watching them and that everything is ok.

You don’t want to baby them, use a cooing voice, or anything that would be considered positive reinforcement for the behavior you’re trying to stop. The goal is simply to give them what I call a “check-in” so they know you haven’t forgotten about them or left them alone.

2. Create a Safe Spot

One thing our dog used to do was try to run around and hide in weird places. Under the table, in the closet, and in places that a big dog really doesn’t fit. To avoid her running into one of our kids, breaking something, or hurting herself, we made sure to create a safe zone for her to stay during storms.

First, we used her crate. That way we KNEW she wasn’t going to be loose and doing any damage.

As we progressed in her training, we let her sleep on her dog bed in the living room. As long as she stayed in her bed, she did not have to go back in the crate.

Since her bed is one of her favorite places to sleep the rest of the time, going there during a storm was comforting.

This safe spot may be different for your dog, depending on where they normally hang out in your home.

Learn More: How to Choose the Right Size Crate for Your Dog

dog curled up asleep in a round dog bed
Zelda in her favorite dog bed, which is one of her “safe spots” during storms.

3. Lights On

One thing we noticed is that even if a storm is not on top of us, flashes of lightning would send our dog into a frenzy. I suppose because she knows that lightning means a storm could be on the way.

As soon as we see that there is a storm in the forecast, we turn all the lights on in the room that our dog will be staying. When the house lights are on, lightning outside is less noticeable.

4. Close the Windows

Similar to the above, closing the curtains and drawing the blinds will also help block out lightning. At night, we hang a sheet over our door windows too.

5. White Noise

Dogs can hear and feel thunder before humans, so your dog may know a storm is coming before you do. If you can beat them to it, that will help stop their anxiety from getting revved up before the real storm even hits!

If we know a storm is in the forecast, we will turn on the AC (if it makes sense with the weather), the ceiling fan, and an air filter in her room. Together these create a lot of white noise that can drown out faint rumbles of thunder from a distant storm.

6. Blast the Music

Building on the white noise strategy, if a storm gets closer, we add music to the mix. We have a portable speaker that we set up next to her and play soothing music. Zelda really seems to be a fan of yacht rock!

Since our speaker sits on the floor, the bass from the music creates vibrations that can cover up the vibrations that thunder makes.

This is one of our most successful tricks for keeping our dog calm during thunderstorms! Tried and tested!

7. Natural Supplements

We’ve had good results with hemp-based supplements in reducing anxiety. We give our dog the recommended dosage when we know a storm is in the forecast. If you wait until a storm is already here, dogs may already be so nervous that they don’t want to eat anything.

Always make sure that you use a product designed specifically for dogs that is hemp or CDB based, and from a trusted brand/source. THC is toxic to dogs, so never self medicate or give dogs cannabis products!

Safety Note: With all that said, I would absolutely consult your vet before trying any supplements. Remember, I am not a vet or medical professional. I am simply a pet owner that has tried many, many things and am sharing what worked for us.

7. Anti-Anxiety Medication

Medication is always our last resort. However, if a storm is forecast to arrive in the middle of the night, we will give our dog a vet-prescribed anti-anxiety medicine to take the edge off.

I prefer not to medicate whenever possible, but having to sit awake with a frantic dog for hours on a school night is rough. And we can’t play loud music because the kids are sleeping. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

That being said, anti-anxiety medicine is not a cure all! It doesn’t totally knock your dog out, but it just sort of makes them a little drowsy. They may still be very aware that a storm is approaching and that is why we don’t rely on pills. We still use all of our other strategies to block out the light and noise from storms to keep her calm.

9. Thunder Jacket

A thunder jacket or thunder shirt is essentially a compression garment for dogs. It provides gentle pressure, almost like a hug, which is said to have calming effects. I know a lot of pet owners who swear by them!

Try It: Shop Thunder Jackets On Amazon

10. Patience

Above all, it is so important to remain calm yourself when dealing with an anxious or frantic dog. They can truly sense your own emotions, so if you are upset, they will pick up on it and become more worried.

As I remind my husband (who did not grow up with pets), dogs are not robots. It takes months, and sometimes years, of consistent training to achieve results, especially with something that can be so scary to dogs.

And I’m happy to report that not only has Zelda improved tremendously, but my husband has taken the lead on her storm training!

More Basic Dog Training Tips

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