When the low rumble of thunder echoes on the horizon, it can be a distressing time for both dogs and their owners. Of course, the problem is worse for dogs as they don’t know what is happening and often cower in fear, but it can be upsetting for owners as they don’t know exactly how to make their pooch feel better. But what exactly is it that makes dog scared of thunder? Is it just the noise or is something else going on? Well, this is exactly the first thing that we will look at in this blog post, plus examine some of the ways that you can help your pooch overcome their fear of thunder!
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Thunder?
The most obvious explanation as to why your dog is scared of thunder is simple noise aversion, which makes them scared of the loud crashes during storms. It could also be a combination of dropping barometric pressure, the darkening skies, and whistling of the wind. Another explanation that has been put forward is the build-up of static in your pet’s fur, which could cause them some pain or discomfort. If your dog then touches some metal with their nose, they could get a stronger shock, which serves to contribute further to their phobia.
There is also the belief that dogs sense things that we are unable to. For example, canines have an incredible sense of smell, which could mean that they are smelling changes in their environment. This could explain why dogs seem to be able to sense a storm before it arrives. If you have a traditional herding breed of dog such as a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, there is also some evidence that they are predisposed to a phobia of storms. Also, there are the pooches who suffer from issues like separation anxiety who may be more likely to experience an issue.
How To Calm a Dog During a Storm
- Let Your Pet Decide Where They Feel Safe
During a storm, you may notice that your pet always runs off to the same area that acts as their ‘safe space’. Sometimes, this may be areas with tiled floors where your dog can be grounded from electric shocks. Wherever your dog chooses, aim to make it more comfortable by putting their bed and favorite toys there. You could invest in some white noise machines to buffer the noises given off by the thunder. If you can provide some soundproofing to the area, this is even better. Take a look at our review of dog beds for more options.
- Reward Year-Round Calm Behavior
While it may be tempting to try and calm your dog every time they exhibit fearful behavior, you may be inadvertently worsening their separation anxiety. While you don’t want to scold your dog, you still don’t want to make their anxiety issue worse. Instead, you can work on getting your pup to settle on command, putting a special indoor leash on them, having them lie down, and rewarding and reinforcing calm behavior. Practice this when there is no storm so that when thunder starts for real, your pooch knows what to do.
- Distract Your Dog
While some dogs seek refuge, others may want to use the opportunity to spend more time with their owners. There are all sorts of things that you can do including offering your pooch their favorite toy, playing some games of fetch, presenting them with some treats, and simply giving them some care and attention. Ultimately, you want to allow them to do something that they enjoy rather than focusing on the negatives. If you are anticipating a storm arriving later in the day, you could try giving your dog an extra exercise session to tire them out and hopefully reduce their anxiety.
- Invest in A Special Garment
There is some doggy clothing that could provide the answer to how to help a dog with thunder anxiety. An anti-static jacket will stop the problems related to this aspect of the storm. Or you could rub them down with an anti-static dryer sheet. There are also snug-fitting shirts and wraps, which are specifically made to have a calming effect. There is something about the swaddling effect that has been shown to reduce anxiety levels. While these may not work for every dog, there is certainly no harm in trying one. For more options, check out our detailed review of dog anxiety vests.
- Desensitize Your Dog to Loud Noises
A creative approach that you could take to dealing with this issue is to desensitize your dog to the loud noises of a storm. You could play some storm noises in the background while distracting your dog by playing a game. Gradually, you can begin increasing the volume, putting a halt to proceedings if you notice that your pooch is getting stressed out. The main problem with this approach is that you cannot recreate the static electricity, flashing lights, and anything else that may be bothering your pooch during a storm.
- Ask Your Vet for Further Advice
If you don’t seem to be having any success on your own, you may need to enlist the support of your vet. They are likely to have more ideas regarding behavior modification techniques and can advise on whether any anxiety medication may need to be prescribed. While not every pooch requires this type of approach, it can prove to be beneficial to some of them – especially if they work themselves up into a severe state of panic during a storm.
There are many reasons why your dog may get upset during a storm, but there are also several techniques that you can use to help them. These include offering your pooch a safe space, getting special clothing or distraction techniques. If nothing else seems to work, you may need to get your vet involved to provide some advice on a dog thunderstorm anxiety treatment that you can give to your pup. Ultimately, this is a problem that you want to deal with head on as you don’t want your pooch to continue to remain stressed for life.
- Fear of Thunderstorms and Fireworks – Penn Vet
- Help Dogs during Thunder & Fireworks – Vet Med at Illinois