Tips for dealing with storm-induced dog anxiety

(Getty Images)

Whether it’s the loud noises or the flashing of lightning that raise their anxiety, storms can upset pets.

Related: Metro Detroit weather


To help dogs get over their fear of storms, the Michigan Humane Society suggests desensitizing them.

If a dog is afraid of thunder, they can be desensitized by playing thunder sounds to them at a low volume and raising the volume in small increments.

Start by playing recorded thunderstorm sounds at a low level. Put the dog in a different room than the sounds.

Work on commands with the dog until it becomes comfortable with the storm. Reward the dog each time it follows a command. As it becomes comfortable, increase the volume a bit. The MHS said to do this until the sounds are as loud as a real storm.

Once the dog reaches that level of comfort, turn the volume down about one-third of way and work with the dog in the same room. Follow the same procedure.

The MHS said to monitor the dog’s reactions and stop and go back a step if the dog acts scared during the process.

What to do when it storms

There are mixed beliefs about whether a pet should be comforted when it is scared.

The MHS thinks that comforting a dog that is showing fear can reinforce their behavior. It is suggested not to pet a dog that is scared or tell it that things will get better because that may lead them to think they are getting rewarded for the fearful behavior, the MHS said.

If you do choose to comfort your dog, though, Cynthia Bolte, who is a member of the animal behavior team at Purina, suggests massaging the dog to calm it. She also said to stay with a scared dog.

She also said to cover the windows so dogs can’t see out and have an area for them, such as a crate. If the crate is a wire crate, Bolte suggests putting a sheet over it to create a safe haven.

Calming music can also be played to help calm down the animal.

Other options

If the dog is still reacting fearfully to storms, other options include anti-anxiety medications that can be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Also, products such as a Thundershirt are designed to provide pressure on the dog that can calm them. A do-it-yourself shirt can be made with an Ace bandage if you don’t have a Thundershirt.