How to Help a Dog That's Afraid of Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms and lightning. Very, very frightening!Thunderstorms and lightning. Very, very frightening!Summertime means a lot of great things for dogs and dog lovers. Running through open fields, rolling in the cool green grass, swimming in our favorite holes and fountains. Longer days mean more time afield, more hours lounging around under shady trees and on front porches. And with all of that extra playtime comes more exercise, which usually means happier pooches and happier owners. But there is a downside to hot sultry summertime too.

Because like a lot of things in life, summer comes with a real dark lining.

I'm talking thunderstorms.

And the dogs that hate them.

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If you've never had the pleasure of being around a poor pup who just cannot process or handle big thunder and lightning storms, it's difficult to explain just how strange things can get. Nothing seems to change certain dogs' normally upbeat personalities as much as the clap and crash of a t-boomer rolling across the neighborhood sky. Some happy campers might squeal or cry. Some hide and shake. And still others just plain freak out to the point where more than one owner has had to think twice about whether his best friend might have actually lost his darn marbles for good.

If you have experienced this phenomenon with your own dogs, well then, you know precisely what I'm talking about. And I feel for you, too.

So, with summer knocking down the door, I figured it was time for a look at some of the best ideas for dealing with thunderstruck dogs. And hopefully, with a little information, we can make this summer a whole lot more enjoyable for a bunch of our hairy buddies who deserve to have their best summertime yet.

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Start 'Em YoungStart 'Em Young Start 'Em Young
Many vets and dog owners agree that it's a lot easier to help dogs deal with loud sounds like thunder, traffic, gun fire, etc. if they are repeatedly exposed to it when they are still puppies. For thunderstorms, this isn't always easy since we can't just call up a tempest anytime we want. But there are CDs of noises especially made for training young pups. So, if you have a juvenile dog in the learning stages, check out that option.

Toughing It OutToughing It OutToughing It Out
The worst thing any dog owner can do when their pooch is storm-panicked is to assume that the animal just has to tough it out. Do not confuse a dog's behavior during a storm with misbehavior, because it just isn't. As we'll see, there are quite a few ways to help calm your four-legged friends during storms. But just leaving them to "tough it out" is not one of them.

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Nothing But CoolNothing But Cool Nothing But Cool
It's extremely important for owners to remain calm, cool, and collected when dogs are stricken with fear or anxiety during a storm. Be certain to never implement any sort of punishment or scolding for their reactions to thunder and/or lightning. Remember, you wouldn't holler at a baby who was petrified at storm noise...and a dog's comprehension of storms is no more advanced than an infant's. Their fear is real and genuine, not an over-reaction.

Everything's Gonna Be AlrightEverything's Gonna Be Alright Everything's Gonna Be Alright
Offering your frightened dog reassurance during a thunderstorm is very important. We know the 'get tough' approach won't work with them, so it makes sense that hearing their owner's calm voice might just work a little magic. But remember to try and do this without being too coddling. There is debate about this, but it seems as if most dog owners agree that a steady calm voice, without a lot of baby talk or overly affectionate speak, works best.

I Like It Under Here, Thanks!I Like It Under Here, Thanks! I Like It Under Here, Thanks!
Make certain to follow your dog's lead and let him/her go where they want during a storm. If they want to be under the couch, let them go there. Do they crawl into the bathtub? Bend the rules and allow it. Your dog will almost always gravitate to a place he feels comfortable when he is scared, so if yours wants to head under the covers or under the microwave cart, by all means, let them do it.

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Thunder Proof DudsThunder Proof Duds Thunder Proof Duds
Much has been written lately about the various 'shirts' out on the market for storm-stricken dogs. And as far as I can tell, there seems to be no real side effects or downside to trying one. With pressure directed at certain points on your pooch's body, these shirts, with names like the "Thunder Shirt" and "The Anxiety Wrap," claim to calm your dog during bad storms. These shirts are widely available on the internet and might just be worth a try.

Don't Give Up On Me!Don't Give Up On Me! Don't Give Up On Me!
Listen, it's really nerve-wracking to have to watch a dog you love so much become frantic during a storm. But remind yourself that there ARE things that can help and ways to make it better. So don't ever give up trying. Talking to your vet can often lead to a variety of additional tips and techniques that will help both you and your little buddy make it through the storm in one piece and in peace.

- By Serge Bielanko
Follow Serge on Babble

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