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13 Ways to Help Dogs with Noise (& Thunderstorm) Anxiety

A dog struggling with storm anxiety

If you have discovered that your forever friend doesn’t like thunderstorms, you are not alone. Many dogs get anxious when there are loud noises like thunder and fireworks. Sometimes it is a mild reaction and nothing to worry about, but sometimes it is extreme. There are a variety of things that might cause this reaction, and, luckily, there are some strategies to help relieve your dog’s anxiety around thunder and lightning.

Why Do Dogs Get Anxious During Storms?

There are a variety of reasons that experts think cause storm and noise anxiety in dogs. A dog’s nervous behaviour is most likely triggered by unexplained loud sounds. 

In most cases, dogs don’t know what is causing the sounds. Sudden loud noises, like thunder, strong winds and hard rain take them out of their comfort zone, and they don’t know what to expect.

Some other things that might cause this behaviour are:

  • Changes in air pressure
  • The smell of rain approaching
  • Static electricity in the air

If you notice any of these signs, you need to prepare for your dog’s anxiety, but try not to panic or get worked up–that can make things worse.

Signs of Storm Anxiety

Your dog’s senses are better than yours, so they will probably know that a storm is on the way before you do. Here are some signs of anxiety that you can look for, so you can be prepared when your dog reacts:

  • Clinging to your side
  • Hiding under furniture or in closed-off spaces
  • Licking their paws
  • Panting
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Wide eyes and looking around nervously
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Yawning

These are general signs of anxiety, but if you notice that a storm is approaching, keep an eye on your furry pal and look for the symptoms.

Some Dog Breeds Are More Susceptible Thunderstorm Fear

Some dog breeds suffer more than others from storm anxiety. It is more common in hounds, hunting and sporting breeds. Rescued or adopted dogs can also be more susceptible to noise phobia due to trauma that they experienced in the past (or the fear associated with a loud shelter).

Breeds that are more susceptible to anxiety linked to thunder or other loud sounds include:

Storm sensitivity varies a lot from individual to individual, so keep that in mind as you are looking for a future forever pal.

What to Do If Your Dog is Afraid of Storms

A dog hiding under a blanket during a storm

Here are 13 strategies that you can use to help your doggo when they are bothered and upset by thunder and lightning.

1. Start Conditioning Your Dog or Puppy Early

If a dog, as a pup, is conditioned to loud noises, they will realize that they are part of life and be less likely to be upset by loud thunder and bolts of lightning as an adult.

2. Desensitize Them Gradually

Desensitize them as adults. If you play sounds of thunderstorms softly and then slowly increase the volume, it can make them less sensitive to the noises when they really happen

3. Get a Workout in Before the Storm Arrives

If you can, give them a workout before the storm hits. That will expend a little of your dog’s energy as well as release endorphins. It just might help them weather the storm in a calmer state.

4. Try Not To Intervene

Give them space. Just let them do their thing. Remain calm yourself, and let your dog do whatever they want to do in this situation. If you get nervous and agitated, your dog will pick up on that and make things worse.

5. Reduce Static Electricity in the Air

Reduce static electricity with a dryer sheet. Some people feel that dogs get upset over the static electricity in the air preceding a storm. So try to rub them with an unscented dryer sheet to remove any static electricity.

6. Give Noise-Canceling Headphones a Try

Noise reduction headphones for dogs. If the loud noises bother your doggo, try a pair of doggy ear covers. They will reduce the noise and help keep your doggo calm.

7. Create a Safe Space for Your Dog

Give them a den. Some dogs try to run and hide when they hear loud noises. If they have their own room or a closet that they can escape to when a storm approaches, they tend to stay calmer. Under a bed or a chair, a covered crate, anything that reminds them of the den that they historically called home before they were domesticated.

8. Counteract Scary Sounds with Calming Ones

Provide background music/noise to cover up the thunder. Play relaxing music near your dog. If they have retreated to their “den,” play the recorded music near them to help cover up the noise of the storm.

9. Distract Your Dog

Distract them with toys and treats. Toys and treats capture their attention quickly, so giving them a tasty treat or their favorite toy can distract them from the storm.

10. Talk & Play with Them

Talk to and play with them. Remember, your dog loves you and talking calmly to them as if nothing is wrong and playing a game or two can quickly take their mind off the storm.

11. Dress for the Stress

Try a tight shirt, body wrap or pressure vest. Some dogs find that the pressure against their skin relieves some of the anxiety.

12. Talk to Your Vet About Natural Remedies

For dogs that are badly affected by thunderstorms, you might need to get a little extra help but talk to your vet first. You can buy a number of natural anti-anxiety products, like CBD oil, hemp products, Valerian root, Melatonin, and Passion Flower. You can also try some supplements, like Alpha-Casozepine, Melatonin, Theanine and Tryptophan. Dogs can associate the odor of some essential oils with good things, so you can use those smells to distract your dog from the noise of the storm.

13. Ask Your Vet if Your Dog is a Good Candidate for a Prescription

Your vet can also prescribe medications, like Alprazolam, Amitriptyline, Buspirone, Clomipramine, Dexmedetomidine, Diazepam, Fluoxetine, Gabapentin, Lorazepam, Paroxetine, Sertraline and Trazodone for your dog if natural products don’t help.

Into Every Doggo’s Life, a Little Rain Must Fall, But…

A dog snuggled up during a storm

It doesn’t need to adversely affect their lives. Anxiety caused by thunderstorms and loud noises affects many dogs, but with a little help from their pawrents, they can overcome or at least minimize their anxiety. Talk to your vet and try some of these strategies, and you and your furry pal can brave the worst of storms happily together.