Scared dog

Scared dog (Courtesy of MorgueFile / June 28, 2013)

My dog is deathly afraid of thunder, and nothing we do seems to help. How can we keep him calm during storms?

Many dogs, including my dog Charlie, suffer from fear of thunder and lightning.  Figuring out what will help your dog takes patience and some experimenting with the following suggestions:

Try a ThunderShirt or another anxiety wrap to comfort your dog.  Practice using it when it is perfectly sunny outside and give your pup special treats when he tries it so it's familiar when a storm comes. 

If your dog likes his crate, he may feel safer in a closed-in small space. You can even leave a light on in the room or put a blanket on three sides of the crate (so he can hide under the covers). Charlie prefers the bathroom, so I put a rug in the bathtub and turn on the exhaust fan to create white noise. When he gets anxious and starts pacing, I lead him back to the bathroom, say "Go to your spot" and, because of practice, he knows exactly what to do.  

There are also pheromone sprays, over-the-counter drugs, and even prescription medication available to help your dog feel calm. Please call the Maryland SPCA help line (410-235-8826) or talk to your vet for more information. 

Nichole Miller is assistant director of operations for the Maryland SPCA.