If your dog snaps when thunder claps, don't worry -- it's natural. Dogs don't know what thunder is, so it can spook them. While you may not always be able to make their fears go away, you can help them calm down and get through the storm without a meltdown.
Comfort your dog with affection -- always speaking in a soothing, calm voice. Too much attention may increase your dog's anxiety level, so don't be overbearing.
Drown out thunder with background noise. Turning up the television volume or playing music won't completely block out thunderous booms, but it can at least reduce it to background noise -- and it gives your dog a great excuse to catch up on his favorite soap operas.
Allow your dog to hide when he wants to, especially in a crate. Make sure that the door to the crate remains open at all times so that if he wants to duck and cover, he can (this is natural behavior). He may find even more comfort and security when you enclose him in the crate during a storm.
Play with your dog to take his mind off things. Offering him a special treat such as a chew toy or rawhide, or even engaging in a good old-fashioned game of tug-of-war, brings a welcome distraction to the crashing thunder outside.
- If your dog's storm anxiety is hazardous to you or your dog's well-being, talk to your veterinarian about treatment options. A veterinarian may be able to prescribe a medication that will alleviate storm anxiety.
- Play thunderstorm audio recordings periodically so that your dog becomes accustomed to the sound. Start by playing the recordings quietly in the background, then gradually increase the volume so that your dog becomes accustomed to the sounds. When a real thunderstorm rolls in, he will not be as startled.
- Do not attempt to make your dog confront his fear by exposing him to a real thunderstorm. For example, don't force your dog to sit outside in a dog house during a storm. This may induce aggressive, fear-related behavior.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.