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Posted on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 11 a.m.

Storm treats! Help for dogs scared by storms, thunder and lightning

By Lorrie Shaw


Flickr photo courtesy of Tudor Costache

I get asked frequently how to curb a dog's fear of the noise and negative association of storms. It's something that I see a lot among clients' dogs, and the reasons behind the behavior vary, from the vibes that a dog gets from their people - to static electricity emitted by the storm.

The best tip that I can give to quell the fearful behavior? Make the event into a positive thing. This can be achieved by using a classic counter conditioning, and it's easy - no special tools needed.

When a storm is about to start, emit a positive attitude. Your pet picks up on nonverbal communication and your behavior, not just what you say. Grab your dog's favorite interactive toy, like a tennis ball and a handful of really yummy treats - and begin to play fetch (or whatever keeps your pet engaged) in a safe area.This keeps them distracted, and engaged in the activity - not on the building storm.

As the storm gains intensity, the treats become a valuable tool. Most dogs are afraid of the thunder and lightning, not so much the rain itself. Remember, dogs are more sensitive to visual cues in this case, lightning - as well as audible/sensory cues like thunder, than we are. Each time during the game that it either thunders or a strike of lightning, in an enthusiastic tone say something like: "Woohoo!" or "Alright!" as you give them a "storm treat." This is a prime example of classic counter conditioning. Continue through the storm, and through the interaction, your dog will start to associate the storm activity with a positive outcome, rather than a fearful response.

Read more from Patricia McConnell's site, The Other End of The Leash on reinforcing fear in dogs.

Lorrie Shaw is a pet blogger, a regular contributor to and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has extensive experience with animals including dogs, amphibians, exotic birds and cats, and is always interested in fostering healthy dog behavior. Contact her via e-mail



Sun, Jun 27, 2010 : 4:48 p.m.

I read a tip about using Chamomile dog treats before a storm shows up. It makes sense as chamomile seems to calm me down. A company named Sam's Yam's makes a sweet potato and chamomile dog cookie. We just got them from and I am anxious to see how well they work. The trick is remembering to give one to my dog before the rain starts.


Fri, Jun 25, 2010 : 8:45 p.m.

the first rumble of thunder usually makes my dog uneasy, he'll whine and look at me for a cue. I think b/c it makes him think someone is at the door. I have casually just said, "it's just thunder" and ignor making eye contact and go about whatever I was doing. He'll be calm as long as momma is calm.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Jun 25, 2010 : 3:58 p.m.

What an excellent idea! I am so going to try this with my dog the next time we have a storm.

Atticus F.

Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 10:35 a.m.

I was told doggy Valium also works well too.