Scared of Thunderstorms -- What to Do When Your Dog is Thunderphobic

I posted this last year about thunder phobic dogs. Now that thunder season is again upon us, it's worth reposting.

It seems that small male dogs can be especially susceptible to becoming scared of thunderstorms as they age.

It has struck me as interesting that even though I have a kennel full of small male dogs, none of them have ever been thunder phobic, despite living in Tampa, lightening capital of the US.

Then my sister (who has one of my retired dogs) reported a problem -- during thunder storms Robbie would pace the house, shivering and shaking. When I thought about it it struck me -- my dogs are generally in their crates during storms. Surrounded by their safe den and with protection against the light flashes and booms of thunder, they sleep on unconcerned.

I was working in Minneapolis last year when there was a big storm. The family's old Coton de Tulear came to me at 3 in the morning, drooling and shaking. I tried to reassure him but he was inconsolable. So I put him in his crate, covered with a thick blanket in a windowless back bathroom. I could hear him settle down immediately.

So what do I recommend? Follow the following steps:

At the first rumble of thunder, put your dog in his crate, preferably in a windowless room and cover it well. Protected from the sound and sight of the storm and safe in his den, he should be fine.

If he doesn't like being in a crate, you should fix that now before the next storm. I have posted how to do this at Crate Training For Dogs That Hate Crates.

This has worked well for me. There are "thunder shirts" out there and some sort of anti-static capes. I have heard from friends that they can have some workability.

Additionally, you can give your dog a mild natural sedative like melatonin, but you need to do this well before the first rumble.

I do NOT recommend any of the "anti-anxiety" drugs out there. They do not have sufficient trials done on them to make sure they don't have severe long term side effects. Such drugs have been linked in humans to some pretty horrific results, so it just makes sense to avoid them in dogs. If you are interested in more information on this, please check out

Citizen's Commission on Human Rights.

So there you have it. The simple scenario is to make sure your dog is crate trained and to put him a quiet and dark space at the first rumble of thunder. Additionally, you can use mild natural sedatives like melatonin. The "thunder shirt" type coats seem to have some anecdotal usefulness.

Let me know how it goes -- I look forward to hearing from you!



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