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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

How to Help Calm Your Dog During a Storm and Keep Them Safe

By Anton Hout, author of The Guide to Aussie Training & Care

Figuring out how to calm your dog during a storm can be a real issue for any owner. Reactions to storms are common among dogs, even normally even-tempered breeds like the Australian Shepherd, and can range from simply licking their paws to chewing, barking or running away. In order to help your dog through the stress of a storm it's important to understand what causes this behavior and be aware of the warning signs.

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So why do storms tend to upset our dogs? Even the experts don't know every potential reason but the most common explanation has to do with your dog's keen senses. That same heightened sense of smell and hearing that makes your dog come running when you open a bag of chips allows him to hear the distant rumble of thunder even before it's apparent to you. Learning to calm your dog during a thunderstorm begins with understanding this basic point.

Dogs can also likely sense changes in air pressure or even smell the ozone in the air from lightning, again usually well before we're aware of any impending storm. If you've ever noticed your dog suddenly running for cover or clinging to your side on a seemingly calm day it's usually a good sign that there's a storm brewing. This is when you need to start thinking about what you can do to calm your dog during the storm.

How to Help Calm Your Dog During a Storm and Keep Them Safe - Photo: Australian Shepherd sitting on hay with storm clouds in background.

julia_siomuha / stock.adobe.com

Just because your dog is an Aussie, doesn't mean they'll be a calm dog during a storm.

When you think about it, a sudden clap of thunder or a bright flash of lightning can be startling or nerve wracking for many people, so it's only natural that it would affect dogs the same way. It's an instinctual reaction so the most important thing to remember when you're trying to calm your dog during a thunderstorm is not to punish them for the behavior.

Simple Steps You Can Try to Help Calm Your Dog During a Storm

Aside from remaining positive and avoiding punishment there are several simple steps you can try to help calm your dog during a storm:

  • Stay With Him — The key to keeping your dog calm is providing a safe and comforting environment and nothing is more comforting to your best friend than your presence. Try to be home with your dog during the storm or if you can't be there have someone else stay with your dog. Being alone during a storm will only serve to heighten his anxiety.
  • Be Soothing But Don't Smother — While you don't want to punish your dog for his anxious behavior, being overly affectionate can have a negative effect too. You want to provide comfort to help calm your dog during a thunderstorm but don't go overboard. Speaking in a relaxed, normal voice and petting with long, even strokes may be all that's needed to calm his nerves.
  • Provide A Safe Location — When they are faced with something frightening, dogs will instinctively seek a safe area. You can help to calm your dog during a storm by providing a quiet, enclosed space that he can retreat to. That may be a closet, a bathroom or even his crate. The key is making sure it's sound proof and has no windows so he can escape the sights and sounds of the storm.
Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care
  • Create Distractions — If you've ever had to comfort a frightened child you know that getting their mind off of whatever is causing the fear is often the best medicine. This holds true when trying to calm a dog during a thunderstorm. Distract him with toys or games or even a treat. Chewing can be a natural soothing activity for dogs so if you don't give him something safe to nibble on his anxiety could quickly lead to destructive behavior. Puzzle toys or filled Kongs are particularly good for this as it will engage his brain and get him to focus on something other than the storm.
  • Use Background Noise — Another way to calm your dog during a storm by distraction is with background noise. You can employ white noise or play soothing music to help take your dog's attention from the crash of thunder. Many dogs respond positively to classical music but you can really try anything that is gentle and calming to help ease his nerves.
  • Try Desensitizing — In order to prevent anxious behavior you can try a desensitizing technique. Use a thunderstorm sounds CD or a similar track online and begin by playing the recording at a very low volume while going about your normal routine. Do this at regular intervals over the course of several weeks, gradually increasing the volume every time and providing plenty of positive reinforcement so that your dog no longer associates the sound with an impending threat.
How to Help Calm Your Dog During a Storm and Keep Them Safe - Photo: Five lightning bolts at sunset beside house on acreage.

Derrick Neill / stock.adobe.com

How nervous you get during a storm can affect how your dog reacts as they will pick up on your cues.

Other Options to Calm Your Dog During a Thunderstorm

ThunderShirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket

ThunderShirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket is available on Amazon here.
The patented design applies gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear, and over excitement.

If these techniques aren't getting the job done, you could try a ThunderShirt, which replicates the feel of swaddling and can provide a feeling of security. If all else fails or your dog's anxiety reaches a severe level you may want to consider medication to calm your dog during a thunderstorm but this should only be used as a last resort and only under a doctor's orders.

When you want to calm your dog during a storm the most important thing you can do is to remain calm yourself. Your dog takes his behavioral cues from you by reading your body language, so if he senses that you are anxious he'll become anxious too. At the same time, you need to be aware of his body language. Learn to read the physical cues that signal anxiety and you'll be able to react appropriately so that you can both weather the storm safely.

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Figuring out how to calm your dog during a storm can be a real issue for any owner. Fearful reactions to storms are common among dogs, even normally even-tempered breeds like the Australian Shepherd. #australianshepherd #aussie #dogtraining #puppytraining #aussielovers

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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

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