If your usually calm and collected Doggy suddenly starts barking or worse still, exhibits destructive behaviour such as self-chewing during a thunderstorm, it might have a storm phobia. However, fret not, because here’s how you can help your furkid through the storm:
During a thunderstorm, being alone may make your pet’s anxiety worse – especially if it relies very heavily on you. Your furkid is likely to seek you out in times of distress, so in the event of a predicted thunderstorm, do be prepared to wait it out with a cuddle session or at least make sure to be by your pet’s side when the storm happens!
That said, petting your furkid can be mistaken as an encouragement to be dependent on you, so do remember to draw the line between offering comfort and encouraging its fear. For added protection against the thunderstorm, invest in a thunder shirt specially designed to ease anxiety in dogs. This shirt takes over your role to pet your furkid – instead, it applies gentle pressure to keep your pet warm and secure.
Distraction can be a major factor in aiding your furkid with its fear of thunder and lightning. To help your furkid cope better, grab its attention with a game of tug or fetch – preferably before the thunderstorm arrives.
However, this all depends on whether your dog is able to occupy itself with the distraction you’re offering. In case this doesn’t work, provide sensory distractions in the form of sounds – such as white noise and calming and relaxing music – to mask the rumble of thunder. Additionally, make sure to close the windows and lower the blinds to prevent lightning flashes.
Set up a safe place for your furkid so that it can seek comfort whenever a thunderstorm occurs. Naturally, this means that it should be able to enter and exit the space of its own accord.
To select this space, narrow down to the areas your pet tends to lounge around. From there, your best bet is in a soundproof area away from the windows – but be sure to keep it close to you and the rest of your furmily in case your dog needs some extra lovin’!
On a normal day, this safe place can even serve as space for your furkid to retreat and relax into, away from the hustle and bustle of your household.
Desensitisation is no quick fix. However, it can become a surefire way to let your furkid overcome its fear of thunderstorms.
To begin, play a sound recording of a thunderstorm on low volume and gradually increase the volume over time. At appropriate intervals, use positive reinforcement such as treats and praise to reward your pet for staying calm.
As this conditions your dog to conquer its fear, you shouldn’t expect to see results until at least 8 weeks in, so it’s best to start as early as possible!