Is your dog scared of thunder? Loud noises like fireworks and thunder frighten some dogs, and others are completely fine with them. Why? That hasn’t really been established yet. So, we will look deeper and answer your question, “why is my dog scared of thunder,” and provide tips to soothe him.
Sometimes, it has to do with trauma dogs have experienced in puppyhood. However, many believe it has to do with specific breeds and their temperaments. Others say it is related to separation anxiety or sensitive hearing.
Whatever the case, dogs that are afraid of thunder, can experience a chronic fear response.
Dogs that have a thunder phobia may exhibit variou behaviors, including urinating, hiding, trembling, panting, and may try to escape. Some dogs may experience only one or two of the above behaviors when frightened, while others may simultaneously experience them.
Tips for a Dog Scared of Thunder
If you over-comfort him, you may actually be reinforcing this unwanted behavior. In a dog’s world, this may be interpreted as a confirmation that his reactions are valid.
Unfortunately, in some cases, no matter what you try, you may never help your dog to completely overcome his fear of thunder, but you can make it better.
Invest in a Thundershirt
The Thundershirt is a snug “shirt” that can calm down your dog’s anxious panting or barking. The dog anxiety shirt provides constant pressure to naturally deliver a calming effect, much like swaddling an infant child. According to experts, it is over 80% effective, so why not give it a try.
Work on Your Behavior
Although your focus may be on Fido, you should keep your behavior in check. Consoling your dog by petting him (even with the best of intentions) may be interpreted as a reinforcement or reward for feeling that way.
Never punish or yell at your dog for his anxiety.
The best way for you to help your dog is to deflect: stay calm and divert his attention away from the thunder by playing with him.
Most of the time, thunderstorms are predicted in the weather forecast. So, use this technology to your benefit. When you expect a thunderstorm in your area, simply increase exercise, so he’s exhausted when the storm begins. At the same time, exercise boosts levels of serotonin, which is a natural calming aid produced by the body. So, this way, you get a double dose of good stuff to help with your dog’s fear of thunder.
Help Desensitize Your Dog to Thunder Sounds
This is an excellent practice for any dog that has noise fears. For instance, you can buy a dog storm CD to play for him in the off-season. Here’s how:
- Have some delicious treats ready to reward your dog.
- When your dog is calm and relaxed, put on the storm sounds AT A VERY LOW VOLUME!
- Use a cue word like “calm” or “relax” or whatever you choose.
- After about 5 seconds, on the first try, give your dog a treat while he’s still in a relaxed or calm state.
- Your goal is to get your dog to remain relaxed on command.
- Practice these steps until your dog succeeds and always reward him with praise and treats.
- Once mastered, increase the time and the volume bit by bit. Please don’t rush this; otherwise, it could backfire on you.
- If your dog exhibits panic or fear after you increase the volume, take it back a notch and start again.
- Always use the same cue word in the practice exercises as you would in a real thunderstorm.
Change Location or Add White Noise
A simple move to another room or level in the home may make all the difference to help a dog scared of thunder. For instance, head to the basement where the thunder won’t be as loud, and your dog won’t feel the rumbling as much.
Or, if a bathroom in your home doesn’t have a window, that would also work, especially with the vent on providing the “white noise” effect.
Some dogs may prefer seeking shelter in their own crates as a way to protect themselves (as they’d head into their den in a dog’s world). Place a blanket over the crate, which could help him feel safer, but do not lock him inside.