Tips & Tricks

10 Tips on How to Calm a Dog in a Thunderstorm

As a dog owner, it’s heartbreaking to watch your furry friend tremble, pace, and pant during a thunderstorm. The intense rumblings, howling winds, and driving rain can be terrifying for our beloved pets, with up to 30% of dogs experiencing severe anxiety during these storms. In extreme cases, dogs may even resort to destructive behaviors like clawing through drywall or chewing carpets in their frantic attempts to escape the frightening noise.

lightning and tornado hitting village 1

With storm season upon us in North Texas, it’s crucial to have a plan in place to help ease your dog’s fear and anxiety. While it might be tempting to scoop up your shivering pup and shower them with extra affection, this isn’t always the most effective way to calm them during a storm. In fact, it could inadvertently reinforce their anxious behavior.

Instead, our goal should be to help our dogs overcome their fear and anxiety about thunderstorms. Here are 10 stress-free ways to calm your pet during a storm and create a more peaceful environment for both you and your dog.

1. Keep Calm and Carry On

First and foremost, it’s crucial to stay composed if you want your pet to stay calm during a storm. Dogs are incredibly perceptive to our emotions, so if you begin to feel anxious or unsettled, your pet will likely mirror those feelings.

Pay attention to how you behave and move around when a storm is approaching. Do you frantically scurry about the house, closing shutters and rummaging for flashlights? This frenetic energy can unintentionally teach your pet to be agitated as well.

Instead, take deep breaths, move slowly, and speak to your pet in a matter-of-fact voice. By modeling calm behavior, you’ll send the message that there’s nothing to fear.

happy adult man holding purebred dog while standing near window

2. Play with Your Dog

One of the most effective ways to show your pet that a storm is nothing to be afraid of is by initiating a play session. Not only will your pet appreciate the attention and closeness, but engaging in a rousing game as the thunder rolls will communicate that all is well.

These toys not only keep your dog occupied but also help alleviate their anxiety, making stormy weather a more manageable experience for both you and your pet.

adult ball blur canine colorful

Interactive dog puzzle toys can be a real lifesaver during stormy weather. These enrichment tools help distract your dog’s attention away from the frightening sounds outside and provide a fun, mentally stimulating activity.

Rolling Drum Treat Dispenser 

This treat dispenser is a perfect example of a simple yet highly effective puzzle toy. Despite its simple design, this hollow plastic drum is sure to capture and maintain your dog’s attention. The objective is clear: your pup must roll the drum around to make treats spill out through an adjustable opening. The genius of this toy lies in its ability to release just a few pieces of food at a time, motivating your dog to keep playing until they’ve retrieved every last morsel.

One of the standout features of the Loobani Rolling Drum is its adaptability. You can easily control the level of difficulty and the duration of playtime by adjusting the size of the opening. Make the hole smaller for a more challenging experience or larger for a quicker reward. This adjustability ensures that the toy remains engaging and entertaining for your dog, even as their problem-solving skills improve over time.

To add an extra challenge, the Loobani Rolling Drum comes with a bamboo holder. By placing the drum in the holder, you create a new challenge for your pup. Now, they must first figure out how to knock the toy out of the stand before they can start rolling it around to access the treats. This added step encourages your dog to think creatively and use their natural problem-solving abilities.

Whether you use it with or without the bamboo holder, the Loobani Rolling Drum is an ideal choice for keeping your dog engaged and content during thunderstorms. It provides an energy-burning activity, introduces basic problem-solving skills, and offers adjustable difficulty levels to suit your pup’s unique needs and abilities.

Pros Tips: As with any plastic puzzle toy, it’s essential to supervise your dog during playtime. Some persistent chewers may be tempted to nibble on the drum in their efforts to extract the food. If your dog is prone to munching on non-edible items, it’s best to opt for a bamboo toy that’s completely free of plastic to ensure their safety.

LOOBANI PET

Spinning Bottles Dog Puzzle Toys

For pups who have mastered the basics and are ready for a more advanced challenge, the Loobani “slot machine” style toy is an excellent choice. This innovative puzzle takes interactive play to the next level, pushing your dog’s intelligence and patience to the max. Unlike traditional dog puzzles, this toy requires a combination of skill, concentration, and perseverance to solve.

The Loobani “slot machine” toy features three unique “test tubes” that you can fill with snacks or dog food. To access the treats, your dog must figure out how to tip the rotating compartments upside down and wait patiently for their reward to tumble out. This process is no easy feat, as your pup must maintain balance while the treats rattle around inside the tubes, making it a challenging but highly rewarding task.

3. Create a Cozy, Safe Space

Every pet appreciates a place to call their own, rain or shine. If your furry friend doesn’t already have a designated safe zone, now is the perfect time to create one. This space should be comfortable and cozy and help your pet feel secure.

Include some of your dog’s favorite toys, fresh water, and a snuggly spot to curl up. You can also add items that your pet finds particularly reassuring, like a T-shirt with your scent or a special blanket to burrow under.

dog pet looking animals home

It’s crucial that your pet can come and go from this safe space as they please. If it’s a room with a door, leave it open. If it’s a crate, keep it unlocked. The goal is to provide a refuge, not a trap.

4. Mask the Noise with Soothing Sounds

Playing white noise, classical music, the television, or the radio can help mask the sound of thunder and create a more calming environment. Consider adding a sound machine or radio to your pet’s safe zone for an extra layer of comfort.

popcorn girl food dog eating

Experiment with different sounds to see which ones seem to have the most positive effect on your pet. Just like people, pets have their own preferences, so what works for one animal might not be as soothing for another.

5. Desensitize Your Pet to Storm Sounds

While it takes time and patience, desensitizing your pet to thunderstorms is one of the most beneficial long-term solutions. When your dog no longer has a negative response to storms, they’ll be better equipped to cope even when you’re not home or they’re in the care of a pet sitter.

vintage record player with disc placed on windowsill

Start by playing recordings of thunder and other storm sounds at a very low volume when there’s no actual storm. Let these sound effects play in the background as you go about your usual routine. If your pet shows signs of fear, avoid giving attention to the behavior, as this can inadvertently reinforce it. Instead, redirect your pet’s focus to a toy or favorite activity.

Gradually increase the volume of the recordings as your pet becomes more accustomed to the sounds. This process may take several weeks or longer, but the result is well worth the effort.

6. Distract Your Dog

Never underestimate the effectiveness of distraction when it comes to helping pets (and children!) navigate stressful situations. When your dog begins to react negatively to a storm, redirect their attention with a favorite toy, an exciting game of fetch, or by calling their name in a playful tone.

people adult woman lifestyle dog

This step goes hand in hand with playing with your dog during a storm. The goal is to refocus their energy and prevent them from fixating on the scary sounds and lights outside.

7. Close the Curtains and Create a Calming Ambiance

It’s not just the thunder that can rattle our pets during a storm – the flashes of lightning through the windows can be equally frightening. To minimize this visual stimulation, go around the house and close all the curtains and shades.

appy woman lying on sofa with cute purebred dog

8. Be Proactive When a Storm Approaches

If you know a storm is on the horizon, take advantage of the extra time to prepare. Not only is this beneficial for your own peace of mind, but it also allows you to create a calming environment for your pet before the storm hits.

When the weather forecast mentions a possible storm, start your preparations calmly. Draw the curtains, turn on some background noise like the TV or white noise, and involve your pet in some playtime.

Some studies suggest that dogs can sense impending storms due to a buildup of static electricity in their bodies. To help alleviate any discomfort, try rubbing your pet with an anti-static dryer sheet or provide them with a non-carpeted spot to relax.

dog massage

The key takeaway is to be proactive rather than waiting until the storm is in full force to start calming your pet. By implementing these strategies before the storm arrives, you can significantly reduce your furry friend’s anxiety.

9. Utilize Calming Pet Products

Recognizing that many pets struggle with storm anxiety, there are numerous products available to help calm our furry companions. Here are a few DIY options you can try at home:

1. Muffin Tin Puzzle Game: Place treats in each cup of a muffin tin and cover them with tennis balls. Let your dog use their problem-solving skills to paw and nudge the balls away, revealing the tasty rewards beneath.

diy muffin tin puzzle game

2. Lick Treat Mat: Spread your pet’s favorite soft treat on a grooved mat. As they lick the mat, their body releases endorphins that help ease stress, and the tasty snack serves as a welcome distraction.

3. Towel or Blanket Roll-Up: Lay an old towel or blanket flat and tuck your pup’s treats or kibble inside the folds as you loosely roll it up. Toss the bundle on the floor and encourage your dog to sniff, nose, and unroll the bundle to find the hidden goodies.

snuffle ball 1

4. Egg Carton Scent Game: Crumple up balls of cloth or paper and place them in each cup of an egg carton, along with bits of kibble or treats. Let your dog tear the carton apart to find the delicious surprises inside.

Egg Carton Scent Game

5. Thundershirt: This popular pet shirt features a patented design that applies gentle pressure when your pet wears it. The pressure helps ease stress, anxiety, and fear – all common feelings during a thunderstorm.

10. Consult with Your Veterinarian

If, despite your best efforts, your pet remains terrified during storms, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian. In some cases, medication may be necessary to help calm your pet.

a veterinarian checking a sick dog using a stethoscope

Your vet might also recommend speaking with an animal behavior consultant who can help you develop a tailored plan for working with your pet to overcome their storm anxiety.

Final Words

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post. After trying out some or all of these strategies to calm your pet during a thunderstorm, you should observe some positive changes in their behavior. However, if your dog continues to shake like a leaf or hide under the couch, don’t hesitate to give your vet a call. It’s important to remember that supporting our pets sometimes requires the assistance of others.

woman sitting on her couch with her dogs

That’s why we continuously update the Loobani Pet Blog with more resources and helpful tips. Your pets are family, and they deserve the very best. 

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About Zelda D.Nelson

As a lifelong dog lover and proud mom to two energetic rescue pups, I know firsthand how important puzzle toys are for providing dogs with much-needed mental and physical stimulation. After over a decade of experience raising well-adjusted, happy dogs, I joined the Loobani Pet team to help other pet parents discover the joy and benefits of dog puzzles. Through my work at Loobani Pet, I've become an expert on the ins and outs of various interactive dog toys. My goal is to simplify the selection process so you can easily pinpoint the perfect puzzles to match your pup's needs and lifestyle. Whether you need a toy to challenge your brainy breed, keep your power chewer occupied, or simply provide some rainy day fun, I've got you covered.