Storm Desensitization For Canines May Prove Difficult

<< Back to Pet Health Blog

Thunderstorms are a common source of intense anxiety in some dogs. It can trigger cortisol levels to rise, increase heart and respiration rates, and cause panting, drooling, trembling, or pacing. Desensitization may be a difficult to do, as the different variables that could trigger fear or anxiety during a storm may be hard to isolate and identify. It is important to realize that the loud thunder “boom” may not necessarily be the stimuli causing your dog’s fear response. Your dog may actually be afraid of the flash of lightning, the darkening of the sky during an unusual time of day, the sound of the wind or rain, building static in the air, variances in the barometric pressure, and even the smell in the air from the rain hitting the ground or the ozone from lightning strikes. It may be a combination of many things.

To complicate the matter, it is difficult to predict the severity and the frequency of thunderstorms for live interventions to be effective. It is also difficult to synthesize the atmosphere of a storm for the sake of desensitization therapy, i.e., playing a recording of thunder and flipping the lights on and off will likely not be enough.

Better alternatives may be to keep a close eye on the weather, and on days where a thunderstorm is expected, have a “safe zone” designated for your dog where you can limit exposure to as many aspects of the storm as possible. A room with no windows, such as a closet or basement, may be ideal; in situations where this is not possible, you may be able to cover the windows in the room to block out the storm stimuli. In the safe zone, you will want to have an open kennel with bedding, food, toys, and other items that are comforting to your dog Storm Desensitization. It is also very important that your dog have access to their “safe zone” should a storm roll in while you are not there.

Recreating storm elements for the sake of helping to desensitize your dog to thunderstorms may be difficult and counterproductive, but you can take preventative measures to limit your dog’s exposure during the storm and thus reduce the anxiety that they have to suffer until the storm passes.