Winter usually brings inclement weather, including thunderstorms and rain or snow showers. However, the loud out-of-nowhere sound that thunder makes will often leave a dog feeling very frightened.
Even though your dog may not have experienced anything traumatic in his life that is associated with loud noises, he can still develop a fear of thunder. However, most fear-related issues that your dog may have can be quickly and successfully resolved. If left untreated though, your dog’s behavior may become progressively worse.
Some of the most common fear-related behavior problems are destruction and trying to run away from the sound. This may mean trying to escape the sound of thunder by jumping the fence surrounding the yard, if he is outside, or trying to run into his favorite room in the house, if he is inside. Even worse, some dogs will try to dig a hole through the wall to escape! Because your dog will most probably feel less afraid by escaping, the action is reinforced and the next time your dog hears thunder he will try to do the same thing again.
However such behaviors can cause physical harm to your dog and you should try to provide your dog with another outlet for his fear of thunder.
Some dogs may cower down and tremble, or they may ‘latch on’ to you and want to stay by your side until the storm has passed. A few dogs may even become destructive when they hear thunder booming overhead. They may even have accidents inside the house or their crate, even though they are housetrained. A few dogs have been known to jump through a glass window just to escape the loud noise.
If you believe that your dog may have a phobia of thunderstorms, there are quite a few things that you can do for him:
*Ask your veterinarian for advice or for a referral to an animal behaviorist who may be able to shed some light on your dog’s fears and actions.
*Try desensitizing your dog to loud noises. This helps the dog think that thunder and other loud noises are actually fun sounds instead of something to be afraid of. You could try desensitizing your dog by playing a game with your dog during the thunderstorm, or by playing a recording of thunder while your dog is doing something the likes, such as eating, playing fetch etc. Start the recording at a very low volume and gradually increase it as your dog gets used to the loud sound. If your dog starts to cower or try to run away, reduce the volume and try again in a few days. Make it a game but never continue if you feel that your dog is too afraid.
*If you know beforehand that a thunderstorm is approaching and you know that you will not be home to be with your dog, place him in a room in which he will feel safe once the loud thunder starts booming overhead. Play music or leave the television on to drown out the thunder. Leave your dog with a towel or T-shirt belonging to you or another member of your family. The scent on the towel or shirt will help in keeping your dog calm.
*Give your dog a few drops of Sleepytime Tonic to help him better cope with his fear of thunder. It is a very calming tonic that was formulated using wonderful herbs and Bach flower essences. Best of all, there are no side effects and is safe for long term use! A few drops of Sleepytime Tonic can be given to your dog either directly on his tongue or on a yummy treat and will take approximately 20 minutes to start calming your frightened dog. You can give Sleepytime Tonic to your dog before a thunderstorm arrives or you can give it to him during or after to help calm him down.You can even put the liquid remedy in your dog’s water so he will get a little bit every time he drinks.
*If you are home during a thunderstorm, try not to reassure your dog by saying ‘It’s OK’ or ‘You’re fine’. These phrases will just confirm to your dog that there is indeed something to be afraid of! Instead say “Good Dog”.