CALMING YOUR DOG DURING THUNDERSTORMS, FIREWORKS AND OTHER STRESSFUL EVENTS
Fear of thunderstorms, fireworks and other loud noises is common in puppies and dogs. Because we can’t control these outside events, it is important to do as much as we can to control our dog’s indoor environment during the frightening events. Be a true guardian by providing reassurance and comfort to your dog during these very stressful events.
Prepare for thunderstorms by having things ready to decrease your dog's stress level. As soon as the storm (or fireworks) starts, immediately give very special treats to your dog every time you hear the thunder/fireworks. Timing is critical – put the treat at the dog’s mouth the instant the noise starts. This is counter-conditioning the dog to believe that thunder and fireworks bring treats! The noise becomes less scary, more rewarding. The dog becomes less frightened and less stressed.
Sometimes you may not be able to catch your dog for treats before he runs to his favorite safe hiding place. Some frightened dogs go under a bed or chair, others go to their crate, or any place that seems safe. If your dog has a special “safe place” in your home, where he seeks shelter, allow him to go there. Forcing your dog to come out will increase his stress and fear. Instead, take his favorite toy, or a stuffed Kong type toy, or a bully stick to his shelter. He may be too stressed to enjoy it during the storm or fireworks, but can have it when he feels better.
If your dog doesn’t have a safe place, you can try creating one by covering his crate with a blanket to block lightening, fireworks and thunder, and placing the crate in a dark, quiet spot that your dog likes. An alternative is to put your dog’s bed or mat in a dark quiet place, with his water, a favorite toy, and check on him often to comfort and reassure him.
In addition, certain products that have been developed to relieve stress and fear may be helpful. Calming collars, products containing soothing dog pheromones, and anti-stress supplements are available, as are snug wraps such as the Thundershirt. These products are helpful to many dogs and are worth trying.