For the 89 million dog owners in the United States, there’s likely one commonality: their dog is probably scared of thunder.
Is your dog scared of thunder? It can be a challenging experience, especially when you’re at a loss at how to comfort and calm your dog. This dog anxiety could cause your dog to harm themselves or others depending on its severity.
If your dog runs to hide every time they hear thunder, fear not: there is help. Keep reading to learn more about a dog’s fear of thunder and what you can do about it.
Why Are Dogs Scared of Thunder?
Loud noises like fireworks and thunder upset many dogs. Animal experts like veterinarians are not sure why, but it likely has something to do with the fact that dogs can hear at a higher frequency than humans. This sound is unsettling and causes dog anxiety.
Here are some warning signs that your dog might be scared of thunder:
- Urinating or defecating on the floor
- Becoming aggressive
- Excessive lip licking
- Ears down
There’s no way to tell which dogs are more dispositioned to suffer from fear of thunder, but some breeds more likely than others. Dogs that have suffered past trauma in their lives are also susceptible to fear of loud noises, or even develop the fear over their lifetime.
Calm Your Dog During Thunderstorms: 7 Key Steps
It’s tough to watch your dog struggle through the loudness of a thunderstorm. Thankfully, these steps help calm your dog’s fears and make a storm more palatable for them.
1. Don’t Freak Out
If your dog sees you afraid during thunderstorms, you’re only reinforcing the anxiety. You must stay calm as well as to not project your fears on your dog.
The most important thing to do, no matter which route you take to instill calm in your pup, is for you to stay calm as well. This way, you can walk your dog through the anxieties they feel.
2. Calming Gear
There are dog anxiety vests and other “clothing” that your dog can wear during a thunderstorm to soothe them.
These types of calming gear create a snug environment for the dog, similar to that of a swaddled newborn. The pressure they feel from the garment alleviates any anxieties and makes waiting out a storm more bearable.
You can find these online or at specialty pet stores, just make sure you know your dog’s dimensions and weight to size properly.
3. Safe Places
Creating a safe place for your dog during a thunderstorm helps them stay relaxed, especially if the thunder sound is muffled or they can’t view the lightening.
This could be anyplace in the home, such as a spot in the basement, crate, or some dogs even curl up in the bathtub. Where ever it is, make sure it’s comfortable for them and they have easy access to this space. They need to feel like they can go and leave on their terms.
4. No Cuddling
We love cuddling our puppies and might even do the same for small children who are afraid of storms. If it works for children, why is cuddling not a good idea for dogs when they’re afraid?
Dogs learn positive behavior through positive reinforcement. By petting or cuddling them, these see these as positive reinforcements and a cue to continue anxious behavior. Not only that, but a severely anxious dog could lash out at an owner or other human who tries petting and cuddling, therefore putting them at risk.
Try to keep from cuddling or petting your dog while they’re anxious during a thunderstorm. You don’t want to create the idea that being anxious is normal and expected.
5. Don’t Punish
Dog phobias are very real and they’re better managed by introducing a positive behavior than by punishment.
If you punish your dog during a thunderstorm, they will become more fearful and associate fear with thunder, something they already deem scary. This will make thunderstorms worse for both of you. Your dog isn’t doing anything wrong; they need someone to help them regulate their anxiety and give them a safe place.
6. Storming Sounds
It’s possible to condition your dog to become familiar and comfortable with storm noises like thunder. This does take some effort, but it might be worth it, especially is your dog is particularly afraid.
It works like this: find a way to play storm sounds to your dog at a low level on a calm day, like wintertime when there is less chance of a severe thunderstorm. As your dog is relaxed, feed them a treat by saying, “calm” or “rest” or another word associated with calming down. Begin playing the sounds at a low level and then gradually increase the noise while continuing to feed a treat as long as your dog stays calm.
Only reward for calming behavior, and stop the process if your dog becomes visibly upset.
If all other methods of coping seem to fail, try talking to your veterinarian about certain anti-anxiety medications, especially if your dog is extremely fearful or anxious.
Not all veterinarians will resort to giving dogs medication, but it’s worth a consultation if your dog is suffering.
Help Your Dog Stay Calm
A dog scared of thunder is difficult to watch and manage. But with consistent practice, these steps can benefit your dog to make thunderstorms less scary.
Want to learn more tips and tricks on how to keep your dog safe? Visit our page to find out all you need to know!