When Fido Freaks

By Cara McDonald


Sudden loud noises—think thunder, alarm clocks, and doorbells—can cause anxious pets to tremble, pace, cry, drool, and generally go nuts.

But “calming” your dog with petting and reassurance may be your worst move—that loving attention can actually reinforce his freak-out. “Instead, your attitude should convey, ‘thunderstorms—they’re the best time ever!’ Dogs will pick up on that confidence,” says Elizabeth Simpson, dog trainer and cocreator of the "Love Them and Lead Them" DVD series (Tenderfoot Training, 2004). Here’s how to effectively calm your canine.

Distract. Always have irresistible toys and treats on hand for potentially unsettling situations.

Provide a safe haven. Dogs instinctually den up during storms, so usher an extremely agitated dog into a blanket-covered crate to block sensory overload.

Calm his senses. Homeopathic PetCalm ($35; nativeremedies.com)can ease anxiety, or try Dog Appeasing Pheromones, synthetic equivalents to feel-good pheromones produced by pups’ nursing mothers.

Desensitize. During non-noisy times, acclimate him to noise by playing classical music with crescendos and diminuendos (such as the “William Tell Overture”) while he eats or plays