Thunderstorms, hurricanes, windstorms and tornados (not to mention fireworks and other noisemakers) are not always predictable, making storm phobia a particularly difficult fear to treat in pets. Not only do the pets show signs of nervousness (pacing, panting, chewing and drooling), they will also display behavioral signs (hiding, owner seeking, trembling, vocalizing, trying to escape, and destruction), which can be even more upsetting, and even dangerous, as phobic dogs have been known to break through screen doors or windows in an attempt to escape, causing serious injury to themselves.
I’m lucky because my fearful dog Josie has found a way to comfort herself by finding a “safe spot” where she waits out the storm. Recently, I showed her a spot inside a small walk-in closet in my bedroom and she now goes in there and sleeps through the night.
Here are a few tips to keep your pet calm and safe during storms:
Leave your pets at home and indoors. Most pets are afraid of storms and may try to run away.
Close all doors and windows and put on background music to muffle the sound.
Close curtains and blinds to block the lightning.
Be sure that your pets are wearing identification tags or have microchips in case they do run away or get lost.
Try to distract your pet with chew toys and games, or play with another pet that does not share his fear.
If you have time, desensitization techniques with appropriate sound CDs, such as thunder, fireworks, trains, sirens, etc. may help pets get used to the sounds at a lower volume, then as they become more comfortable, gradually increase the volume.