There is nothing worse than having a dog scared of thunder. It can break your heart watching them pace around the house shaking in fear or clinging to their owner’s side when a storm is approaching.
If that sounds like a dog you love, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many dogs have thunderstorm anxiety and while it can really pull at your heartstrings to see them so nervous, there’s good news. There are several ways that you can help ease their thunder fears with a little trial and error and some general knowledge about the reasons some dogs are scared of thunder.
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Why Do Thunderstorms Scare Dogs?
A dog’s hearing is much more powerful than a human’s hearing which sometimes makes them more sensitive to loud sounds like thunder and fireworks.
This is why it’s not uncommon for a dog to be scared of thunder, in fact, many dogs will suffer from some sort of noise phobia during their life. However, the reason why a dog is scared of thunderstorms goes beyond the loud boom that follows a crack of lighting.
It’s thought that dogs can experience things about an approaching thunderstorm that their humans can not like a drop in air pressure. Some veterinarians believe that dogs can also experience static shots from the build-up of static electricity that is produced by developing thunderstorms. This could be the reason why many dogs that have thunderstorm anxiety seek shelter in a bathtub.
So a dog scared of thunder is most likely also reacting to the events that lead up to the storm rather than just solely the loud rumble of thunder.
While there can be many signs of thunderstorms anxiety in dogs some of the more common signs seen are:
- Pawing at owner
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Heavy panting
- Not leaving their owner’s side
In many cases, a dog that suffers from thunderstorm anxiety will also have other forms of anxiety present which will intensify their fear of thunderstorms.
Other common dog anxieties besides noise anxieties can include social anxiety, separation anxiety, and rescue/shelter anxiety.
Separation anxiety is a super common condition in dogs and a dog scared of thunder will usually also not like being apart from its owner.
Separation anxiety happens when a dog is upset by being separated from its owner.
There are several ways that you can manage separation anxiety in dogs but some common symptoms seen are:
- Barking or howling when their owner is gone
- Rapidly digging on furniture or flooring
- Pacing the home
- Escaping their enclosure
- Chewing furniture or shredding toys
- Urinating and/or defecating
So wait, why do thunderstorms scare some dogs and not others?
If you have 2 dogs and one dog is scared of storms and the other is not, that’s totally normal too.
A study conducted in 2020 revealed that some dog breeds are more fearful of thunder than others. It also showed that a dog’s fear of thunder increased with age up until 10 years of age and then decreased. Even more interesting it showed that dogs that had not been socialized properly and dogs that did not participate in regular training and activities were more fearful of thunder.
Dealing With Dog Thunderstorm Anxiety
When you have a dog scared of thunder, there’s nothing worse than to see them panic.
Thankfully, there are many ways that pet parents can help ease their dog’s thunderstorm anxiety.
Give Them a Safe Space
One of the best things that you can do for dog thunderstorm anxiety is to provide them with a safe place to go that is familiar and comfortable to them. This could be their crate, in the bathroom, or even under the coffee table. This will help increase their sense of security but make sure not to close the door so that they don’t feel confined or stuck.
While you might not be able to do much about a storm prior to its arrival, you can take steps to make the storm not as frightening to your dog by drowning out the loud crashing of thunder with soft sounds.
Turn on the TV and watch your favorite show or play some soft music for them.
This will help to block out the loud sound of thunder.
Provide Toys and Puzzles
Dog puzzles and safe chewing toys are a great way to keep your dog’s mind focused and will help to keep them from becoming destructive when a thunderstorm is active.
You can even try the popular Lickmats and spread them with dog-safe foods like peanut butter, mashed bananas, and pureed pumpkin.
Exercise Your Dog
If you know that a storm is headed your way, make sure that your dog is able to burn some energy before the bad weather arrives.
Take them for a long walk or play fetch in the yard so that they can get their daily exercise in.
Exercise will help to tire your dog out both mentally and physically.
Anxiety jackets like the Thundershirt gently wrap a dog’s body making them feel secure. For some dogs, this vest can help to calm down their nervous panting within minutes. It’s important to introduce a Thundershirt to your dog slowly so that they don’t associate it with something bad every time that it’s brought out.
Reach Out To Your Veterinarian
If your dog suffers from severe thunderstorm anxiety where you think they might hurt themself, reach out to your veterinarian. They might be able to recommend an over-the-counter medication that can help calm your dog or they can prescribe a medication from their pharmacy.
As pet parents, it’s important for us to also stay in tune with our dog’s body language so that we can act appropriately and timely to help keep them safe. Thunderstorms can pop up quickly in the summer months but it’s also important to stay tuned in to the weather in your area and take action. If a thunderstorm is predicted to happen later in the day, being prepared can greatly benefit both you and your dog.
Do you have a dog that is afraid of thunder? Have you found any good ways to ease their fear?
About the Author: Jen is an experienced writer with a passion for sharing her knowledge of living life with big dogs. In her free time, Jen enjoys hiking, baking treats, and spending time with her husband, children, and her 2 Newfies and Cardigan Welsh Corgi.