As a dog owner, you probably dread any loud noises around the area. Sometimes these come from firework displays, whereas other times they are from thunderstorms. And if your dog reacts with fear and anxiety whenever this happens, you may be wondering why this is the case. The obvious answer is that the loud bangs are causing your pooch to become startled, but this may not be the only reason. So, if your dog is suffering from astraphobia, here are some of the possible reasons why this is the case.
Do All Dogs Hate Thunder?
While thunder may not bother all dogs, it does rank right at the top of the list of situations that provoke anxiety. And it is estimated that around one-third of canines suffer from this condition. Sadly, a lot of dogs have an extreme reaction to thunderstorms, and it can send them into a state of panic. Some factors may play a role in how afraid your dog is such as sex, age, and breed.
How Do Dogs React During a Thunderstorm?
Dogs who suffer from fear of thunderstorms have reactions which range from the mild to the extreme. There are all sorts of behaviors that you may notice including barking, trembling, hiding, whining, scratching, and pacing around the house. You may notice your pooch pawing at doors and windows or engaging in destructive behavior in your home. They may even end up putting themselves in dangerous situations.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Thunder?
- Noise and Light
You may think that the loud crashes of noise are bound to make your dog scared of thunder, but experts aren’t sure whether these are the main problem, or it is the flashing lights as well. There is certainly something about the combination of these two events that upset many dogs.
- Disruption to the Daily Routine
Canines are creatures of habit, and it could simply be the case that this is a major disruption to regular events around the house. After all, many humans suffer from astraphobia as well.
- Dogs Have Sensitive Hearing
We have to remember that all dogs have hearing that is a lot more sensitive than us humans. In fact, they can hear things four times further away than us, as well as being able to differentiate sounds, and even identify where they are coming from. As thunder is a rare event in many places, it could be that your pooch simply doesn’t know what is causing the racket. If your dog has especially sensitive hearing, this could be another factor which is closely involved in upsetting them.
- Static Electricity
Some studies have shown that static electricity causes an uncomfortable tingling feeling in the fur of dogs, and this is a major contributing factor in why they are afraid of thunderstorms. It has been put forward that dogs experience static electric shocks, which is why they often make for the places around your home that are grounded. For example, if you have ever noticed your dog heading for the bathtub during a thunderstorm, this could be because the porcelain from the tub prevents the electricity from traveling.
How to Calm a Dog During a Storm
Nobody wants to see their dog suffering during a thunderstorm, but there are some steps that you can take to properly calm your pooch down.
- Create a Safe Space
The first thing to try is to create a space where your dog can shield themselves away. If they are crate-trained, this is the place they are already likely to retreat to. Ideally, this will be a soft and cozy space, but you could try adding in some blankets to help absorb the sound. Leave the door open to avoid your pooch feeling like they are trapped. A lot of owners think closing the door is best, but this can end up increasing anxiety levels. If your dog doesn’t already have an obvious space to go to, choose a protected corner of your home. Put in some familiar items such as their toys, bed, food and water bowls. If there are windows, close the drapes to block out the flashing.
- Mask the Noise
If you can find a way of masking the noise of the thunder, this can also help to keep your dog calm. The TV and radio are the two most obvious devices to use, but you need to be careful not to make them too loud as this will defeat the object of shielding your dog from startling sounds. Alternatively, you could try turning up the air conditioner or using white noise machines to cancel out the noise. You could try other soothing sounds such as whale song too. Ultimately, it all depends on what works for your dog.
- Desensitize Your Dog to Thunder
Protecting your dog from a single thunderstorm only works as a temporary measure. If you are looking for a more long-term solution, you could try playing some thunderstorm noises in the background, while giving your dog treats, playing some games, or simply showing them some love and affection. During the next few weeks, you can start gradually increasing the volume of the noise. This way, when a thunderstorm comes along for real, your dog will automatically associate it with the good times that you have enjoyed together.
- Talk to Your Vet
If you can’t solve the problem yourself, your vet is the best person to speak to. There are all sorts of recommendations that they can make such as the use of an anxiety vest that produces a swaddling effect in dogs. If the problem is very serious, you may need to enrol your dog in some behavioral therapy to deal with the issues head on.
Read here our guide on the Best Calming Aid for Dogs.
There are a few possible reasons why your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, but as there is nothing that you can do about this natural phenomenon directly, all you can do is to prepare your pooch better with some of the methods we have discussed here.
- Daphne Sashin, When Your Dog Is Afraid of Storms, WebMD
- Debra Horwitz, DVM, Helping Dogs with Severe Phobias During Storms and Fireworks, VCA Hospitals
- Fear Of Thunder And Other Loud Noises, The Humane Society
- Sherry Woodard, Dog Scared of Loud Noises, Best Friends Animal Society