For many people the arrival of the thunderstorms bring feelings of exhiliration and relief. However for many dogs thunderstorms are terrifying.
The anxiety that thunderstorms can cause some dogs can be extreme. In their panic to flee dogs can cause significant damage to property and injury to itself. One dog I know caused nearly $30,000 worth of damage. After every storm the RSPCA gets more lost dogs.
Fundamentally the problem is in the dogs head. The dog fears the thunderstorm because of how it interprets the loud bangs and flashing lights. This is why fear of thunderstorms is so variable. One of my dogs is terrified of thunderstorms but one of my others takes offense at the thunderstorm scaring his friend and barks back at it. If your dog is scared of thunderstorms fundamentally what you need to do is get your dog to believe that thunderstorms are nothing to be afraid of. Needless to say this is not easy, especially because thunderstorms can be very scary and dangerous.
So how do you tell your dog that its only a thunder storm and just relax. It is important not to attempt to comfort and console your dog during storms. Doing this actually will serve to reinforce your dog’s fear and anxiety, thereby making the problem worse. It is better to try and distract the dog by doing something else. such as playing a game or feeding it. The message it sends is “i’m not worried about the storm, so why are you.” The walk is distracting enough to her to take her mind off the negative thoughts she normally thinks about thunderstorms.
Desensitising can also be helpful but it is already too late to try it. Make a video or tape recording of the thunderstorm now and save it for the dry when you can effectively try this.
There are a number of medications that can be helpful and your vet can advise you on these.
Sedating your dog can also be neccessary in some circumstances but there are risks involved and some drugs can actually sensitise them so your dogs more scared of the next thunder after they wake up.
Creating a safe and secure hiding spot so you dog can ride out the storm in safety without damage to itself or property. A kennel, or crate covered in a blanket is suitable. It is important that the dog feels safe as well as being physically secure. making the safe spot dark and enclosed helps the dog feel like it is hiding. My dog voluntarily puts her self away when she senses a thunderstorm approaching. Encourage your pet to use them at other times as well, make it her private space by putting personal toys and treats inside.