3 Ways to Comfort a Frightened Pet During a Thunderstorm

Fear of thunderstorms is a common phobia in pets. When thunder begins to rumble and lightning strikes (or even beforehand), your pet may dive under the bed, bury their head in your lap, tremble, whine, drool, or pace. In some severe cases, a pet may even engage in destructive chewing or scratching as a way to release their anxiety.

While your pet’s jitters may seem cute or comical at times, what you’re really seeing is a scared and unhappy animal, and there’s nothing funny about that. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your pet overcome their fear of storms. We will provide some tips here, but don’t hesitate to talk to your veterinarian or contact a certified behaviorist if you need more help. You will find links to specialist websites at the bottom of this page.

1. Desensitize Your Pet To Storm Sounds

One way to teach your pet that storms are nothing to fear is to expose them to the sounds of storms gently and gradually. Use a CD or YouTube clip of recorded storm sounds, and play the sounds very quietly for a few seconds at a time. Reward your pet with a tasty treat while they are listening. Gradually increase the volume and duration of the recordings, always looking out for signs of anxiety, and stopping if you see that your pet is afraid. The goal is to form a positive association with storm sounds, not to exacerbate an already existing fear.

If you wish to try desensitizing your pet to storm sounds, it may be useful to contact a professional for help. In addition, experts caution that sound desensitization alone may not work in calming all of your pet’s storm fears, as many pets respond not only to the sounds of a storm, but also to static electricity, the drop in barometric pressure, and other environmental factors.

RELATED STORY: My Dog Is Shaking: 8 Possible Reasons

2. Offer Your Pet A Safe Space

One way to help your pet out during a storm is to make sure that they have a quiet and comfortable place to go (if they choose to) when a storm is going down. This may be a crate, a basement room, or a cozy corner of a bedroom away from any windows. The important thing is to allow your pet to decide where they want to go during a storm; confining an anxious pet or forcing them into a certain area of the house can result in heightened fear and panic.

3. Try A Thundershirt

Thundershirt is a garment designed to calm pets down by providing constant, gentle pressure to your pet’s body — almost like a perpetual hug. Experts believe that the shirt’s pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system, possibly due to the release of a calming hormone like endorphins. According to customer surveys completed by Thundershirt, over 80% of dogs and cats showed significant improvement in symptoms when wearing the shirt.

RELATED STORY: What Can Cause A Scared Cat To Panic

If you feel like you need help training your pet to weather the storm, your veterinarian should be able to provide recommendations to the following types of specialists:

Is your pet afraid of storms? How do you help them settle down? Leave a comment below, and consider signing up for PetPlus to save on your pet’s medications, boarding, supplies (like Thundershirts!), and more.

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  1. 1

    I have 2 small dogs. Beau the younger of the two was never afraid of storms until 3 yrs,. ago. the first year of his life he was not. Then I realized he was shaking badly, breathing heavily I was afraid he would have a heart attack or something. My vet said to give him benedryl. Doesn’t work that well. I have cuddled him, carried him, walked with him (holding him) like you would a baby and rocking him. He will get as close to you as he can in the bed or if it is not that time will stay right at your feet. I stay right with him. He will not take a treat at that time and just keeps breathing heavily until it is over. I get worried. He will be 5 yrs. this may 2014. Our other dog is a rescue and he is not bothered by a storm. We target shoot and they can hear it some and Beau the one that is terrified of the storm isn’t afraid by the shooting and Rusty that isn’t afraid of the storm is afraid of the shooting. Got any good ideas. I love them both and would do anything to help them. Thanks for listening.


    • 2
      PetSavvy Editors

      Have you considered the Thunder Shirt? It is a vest for nervous dogs that imitates the feeling of being held, giving them a sense of comfort. I have not used one myself, but members of my family have, and with good results. I hope that helps!

  2. 3

    I have used a Thundershirt on my dog with limited success. However, I did find another website, “Throughadogsear.com” that sells CDs to help with various behaviors. I purchased one for thunderstorms and started using it as needed, and it did help. I also got one for the car. They are both classical music, mainly piano concertos, but they did help calm my dog down much more than the Thundershirt. Since then, I have experimented with different types of music and found. That Sara Brightman recordings also work well.

  3. 4

    Both of my Goldens hated thunder, fireworks, etc. Like Wendy McGregor said, I found that if I stayed calm and played just about any kind of calm or classical music semi-loudly, they would settle right down. For example, Augie heard a lot of Mozart and R. Carlos Nakai (native American flute) and KC responded well to Mahler or Enya. Just pick things that don’t have sudden loud booms, because that’s what they’re going to respond negatively to.

  4. 5

    We’ve had a quite a few rescue puppies in 40 years. We always shut them in the bathtub at night-close the sliding doors most tub/shower combos have, put a nice blanket in there.

    While most puppies won’t mess where they sleep, if they do mess, so easy to just turn the shower on and wash out the tub. Much, much easier than trying to clean the bottom of a crate. We have also only had 3 in about 30 rescue puppies that were afraid of storms.

    One of our rescues, a female bullmastiff, was about 6 weeks old when she was dropped off at the dog pound. Charlie was potty trained in the tub until she was old enough to roam the house freely with her brothers and sisters who have a HUGE doggie door always open into a fenced acre. Once she was old enough to not be constrained in the tub, we always leave the sliding door open.

    We ALWAYS knew when one of the famous Arizona monsoon storms was coming, sometimes even a couple of hours before it would be announced on TV or the radio. Charlie would literally disappear. And she went directly to the tub, laid down, never made a whimper, never shook and when the storm was over, out she would pop. She was perfectly content-that was her SAFE place.

    IF you have a tub/shower combination with sliding doors, try it.

  5. 6

    I had a toy poodle, {which I just recently had to put at rest, she was very ill, & I couldn’t let her go through it anymore, I still cry uncontrollably} Anyway, she was afraid of thunderstorms. So, I held her tight, and when it thundered, I’d hold her tightly, and kinda shake her while making that “broom, broom, broom” sound when the noise started. I did this everytime it stormed, as well as between storms. It did take some time, but finally, she was no longer afraid. But I still held her, shaking and making that noise for a while, Soon a storm would start, and she just continued to lay where she was, even kept sleeping. She was a very mild mannered girl anyway, so maybe that helped get used to it a lot sooner. I miss her so, so very much. Good luck to any who try this.

  6. 7
    Ria van Soestbergen

    We have found over the years, that Melatonin according to weight, has done the trick.

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