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What to do when your dog is afraid of thunderstorms

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Dogs with noise phobias often act out in response to storms or sudden noise. Some researchers believe it is not only the volume of the thunder that triggers this fear, but that they also hear distant thunderclaps before we do.

It is even argued that they can smell the increased moisture in the air signaling coming rain, sense the static electricity generated by thunderstorms and even feel changes in barometric pressure.

Whatever the cause may be, the American Kennel Club offers these tips to help your dog through their fear of thunderstorms:

Positive storm association. If you always try doing pleasant, enjoyable things with your dog during storms, they can over time associate storms with this positive activity. For example, your dog may receive extra treats during storms — thus substituting pleasant associations for scary ones.

Pressure for anxiety. Tight shirts or swaddling your dog's torso has been suggested as a calming benefit for anxious dogs, especially during thunderstorms and other anxiety-ridden activities. The pressure of this is said to elicit a calming effect on pets; this and products that lower static pressure have been credited to lower storm anxiety.

Frightened dog in storm

Medication. Anti-anxiety medication has long been used in response to thunderstorm fear and noise phobias. Your veterinarian would know which kind of medication would be best for your dog in treating anxiety. However, sometimes storms can appear rather sporadically, so the medication may not have time to kick in after being administered.

Give them space. Sometimes the best thing for your pet is to feel safe in a confined space. Putting your dog in a room with no windows and turning on the TV to provide white noise and distract from the thunderstorm is one way to do this. A lack of windows also shields the dog from flashes of lightning outside.

Talk to your vet. As previously mentioned, talking to your veterinarian about the different ways to combat noise phobias and storm anxiety is a good idea, especially if it affects your dog severely. In some cases, medication and behavior modification may be necessary, whereas in milder cases, you may need to desensitize your dog to storms using other methods.

For more information on responsible dog ownership, visit the AKC at www.akc.org.

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