Thunder Buddy

thunder

I’ve never had a dog that was scared of thunder, but I hear from a lot of dog owners that their dogs hate thunder and lightning.

I love lightning. I remember when I was a teenager we lived in an old house with big trees in the backyard. There were several summer nights where I’d try to fall asleep to thunder and lightning. I would lie staring at the ceiling or sometimes closing my eyes, and there would be crackles in the sky and then flashes of light.

I loved the shadows that the swaying trees would make on my walls. Sometimes the loud thunder would shake the walls and the old windows. Oh, that’s when I knew there was a really good thunderstorm outside.

I guess I never feared lightning, I was at peace during thunderstorms and I liked them.  And look at me now — it’s 2016, I’m 37 years old, and still alive after surviving many thunderstorms.

When it rains or thunders, I don’t make a big deal out of it to my dogs.  I am calm.  If they look to me for assurance or look nervous, I am upbeat and get them to think of something else, like a game of “go find the toy!” And if toys don’t do it, it’s hide and go seek the cookie.

If your dog is not your Thunder Buddy and fears the loud crackles of a thunderstorm and flashes of lightning, it’s time you change their experience. How horrible would it be to fear something so out of their control? Tire them out with a good walk before it thunders. Play games with them. Do obedience training, sits and downs, and paws and hi-fives.

I would strongly suggest that you do not act or sound scared.  I wouldn’t say, “Oh no! What’s outside?! What’s that noise? What is it, boy? What is it?” Yeah, that doesn’t instill calm, it creates anxiety — so don’t do that.

And if your dog curls up under a table or bed and shivers at the sound of thunder, don’t join him.  Ask him to come out of there, be a big pup and be brave. “Whatcha doing under there, silly?  Don’t like the noise? It’s so much fun! Want a cookie? Come here and sit for me. Good boy, good sit. No whining and no shivering, I won’t pet you unless you are calm.”

And there you go.  Hopefully that helps someone out there with a fraidy cat doggy woggy.

UPDATE October 2019: I’ve helped a couple dogs with their fear of thunderstorms and fireworks in the past year.  If you have a pup who isn’t your thunder buddy and is terrified of either thunderstorms or fireworks, give me a call.  If you want your dog to learn they no longer have to fear, I would love to help you.

Here’s a related post I wrote called Fear?  Don’t Touch!