We recently adopted a beautiful dog, a two-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Redbone Coonhoud mix that we named Astro. He’s huge with long, lanky legs like a newborn colt. Weighing in at 85 pounds, we call him the “Big Red Love Machine.”
I found out this week, however, that when 85 pounds of dog become terrified during a thunderstorm, it’s not a pretty sight. To his credit, Astro found my closet, an interior space with no windows or exposure to the outside of the house. He lay inside, shaking like a brittle leaf in a gusty wind, until the storm passed. Even then, he wouldn’t venture outside to use the restroom until the very last drop of rain had seeped off the porch roof into the grass below.
Storm anxiety for pets is a very real phenomenon that can be trigged by lightning, thunder, rain and even changes in barometric pressure, experts say.
Calming, soothing and stroking your dog can help, but you can take a more proactive approach to storm anxiety.
Practice getting your dog to settle on command. Use a special “inside” leash on the dog and practice having your dog lie at your feet while praising the calm behavior.
You can also try distracting your pup by offering his favorite toy, playing fetch, petting it and giving him treats (as long as he remains calm and you don’t upset his stomach. One or two is plenty.)
Let him have a safe place during the storm. For Astro, it was my closet. A bathroom, pantry or under a bed will work, too. Let your pooch pick out the spot he likes, within reason, and let him stay there during the storm if he wants to.
Snug garments, like the trademarked ThunderShirt, can soothe a pet by giving them close, tight, comforting sensory input they need to feel secure in the uncertainty of a storm.
If you want, you can also play recordings of storms when it’s NOT storming to try to desensitize your pet to those noises, as well.