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Dog Scared of Thunder: Seven Ways to Soothe Your Dog During a Thunderstorm

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

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Is your dog scared of thunder? Many dogs dread the clapping of thunder that accompanies storm season. As a result, dogs panic and hide, while others develop destructive behavior that makes you wish for sunshine. While your fearful dog cowers in the corner, you may be scratching your head, wondering what you can do to help. Unfortunately, if stress is left untreated, it can get worse with each season. So rather than weather the storm of your pet’s nervous behavior, we’d like to give you some tips on how to help your dog remain calm. Keep reading to find out how you can calm your dog for this storm and the next.

Why are Dogs Scared of Thunder?

When those dark clouds roll around, your pet can already sense the tension in the air. Their instinct is to protect themselves from it. Studies have shown that 43% of dogs display fearful behavior up to an hour before a storm. But what causes these fears?

Loud Noises

Compared to humans, dogs have sensitive hearing, so their fearful behavior may be caused by the loud sounds accompanying wind, thunder, crashing trees, and banging doors in the house.

Other Stimuli

Loud noises and bright flashes of lightning are one thing, but add to that the other stimuli that we cannot sense as pet parents. For example, many experts believe that dogs are also attuned to barometric pressure (air pressure) changes, low-frequency rumbles, and static buildup in the air.

Static Shock

For example, taking warm clothing out of the drier has a buildup of static electricity that can shock you. A dog with long, thick hair can have a similar sensation to discharging static electricity during a storm and experience static shock, an unpleasant feeling for any fur baby.

Trauma

If your dog has experienced several terrifying thunderstorms in its life, then it can develop a storm phobia. Storms can be dangerous and present flooding and damage to the environment. Their fear is valid. Do what you can to comfort them and remain peaceful even if the storm scares you.

Breed

Sporting dog breeds like Spaniels, Retrievers, Pointers, Setters, and herding breeds, like Border Collies, German Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, and Collies, seem more susceptible to storm anxiety.

Symptoms of Dog Anxiety

The body language and behavioral changes of a frightened dog include:

  • Pacing, panting, hiding, verbal distress signals, drooling, yawning, urination and¬†¬†in the home.
  • Attempts to escape can have your pet scratching or digging at the door or climbing on furniture. If your dog escapes, then they may run away.
  • Attempts to shadow you and hide in your bed, even if they do not usually sleep with you.
  • Some dogs can redirect their fear to other pets in the home. Separate your pets so that you can avoid fighting and injury.

Seven Ways to Soothe Your Dog During a Thunderstorm

Is your dog scared of thunder? Here are some simple ways to ease storm anxiety and change your pet’s behavior towards future weather disturbances.

1. Give Them a Safe Space

When an animal is afraid, they need a safe place to hide. In the wild, a wolf finds a secure den to hide from the storm. Your intelligent hound has the same instinct. So offer your dog a secure spot close to you, or consider getting your dog a crate. A dog crate provides the perfect safe space for four-legged family members, and you can use it year-round. If your dog longs to be close to you, then allow them. Large dogs usually restricted from being on the couch or in your bed may become immovable when they’re afraid. You won’t be spoiling your pet if you comfort them when they’re frightened; let them sit with you on the couch this one time!

2. Try a Calm Vest

Many dog parents use a Calm Vest, Thunder Jacket, Placebo Cape, or Storm Defender to ease anxiety in dogs. It is a snug garment that provides gentle pressure to your dog’s chest and torso. Imagine a mother swaddling her baby or the feeling of a comforting hug. A Calm Vest stimulates the same acupressure points. (If you’re stuck indoors during the storm, you can even make your pet a¬†DIY¬†anxiety vest with a scarf, bandage, or self-adhesive medical tape.)Anecdotal testimonies and¬†small studies¬†have reported on how storm vests have a calming effect on anxious dogs. Spending your cash on a Calm Vest is money well spent, as it’s a product that you can use whenever your dog is fearful. If your dog has travel or separation anxiety, or if they panic when neighbors set off¬†fireworks, you can strap the vest around them. Our Honest Paws Calm Vest is made with durable, lightweight, and washable cotton. The long straps have velcro ends so that you can easily adjust the vest for the perfect fit.

3. Use Positive Reinforcement

Avoid punishing your dog during a storm as it will inhibit their fearful response while still causing them stress. When it comes to managing behavior during thunderstorms, the goal is to alter a dog’s emotional state from anxious and afraid to neutral or content. Do this by offering your pet rescue remedies and emotional support. Then, wait for them to quiet down. Once your pet is still, reward them with a toy, treat, or snuggles on the couch. This type of behavior modification can take time and is best practiced before an actual storm.¬†If your dog is rewarded for serene manners all year round, then they are more likely to display relaxed behavior in extreme cases.

4. Watch Your Body Language 

Dogs are our companions, and they are greatly intune to reading our body language and knowing how we are feeling. This perceptiveness¬†is why so many dogs make such great companions or service animals. If a storm is particularly threatening, it may cause you to become anxious too. Many people find storms stressful as their possessions (home and vehicle) and loved ones are vulnerable. So find things that will keep you cool and collected during a storm so that when your pet reflects your mood, then it’s composed and self-controlled.

5. Distract Them With Treats and Toys

Start when your puppy is young and make storms a time for playing, snuggling, and spending quality time with them. For example, if you can distract your dog by playing fetch during thunderstorms, they may put aside their escape plan and instead run to fetch their favorite toy when clouds darken. If you live in a stormy state, then leaving your pet at home during tempestuous weather may be a concern. Prepare your dog by buying some¬†interactive dog toys¬†like a ball launcher, treat dispenser, or robotic game that can keep your dog busy when you can’t be there for them. By using positive outlets or snacking on their favorite treats, your dog will be relieved of some stress and is more likely to stay out of mischief.

6. Play Background Noise

Dog owners can provide background noise to drown out the sound of thunder. Classical music reduces stress in dogs, but another study has also found that Soft Rock or Reggae has the most significant impact on reduced stress. Whatever your music taste, pump the volume and help your fur child to chill out. White noise may also provide a soothing sound to replace the sound of rain, wind, and thunder.

7. Use CBD Oil

While anti-anxiety medication may help your dog’s stress disorder, if your dog’s fear is mild, then you may want to consider a natural, plant-based alternative.¬†Cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp¬†has praising¬†reviews¬†by dog owners who have sought to promote relaxation in their mutt. CBD products have a calming effect on nerves for humans and animals. You can give your dog¬†CBD¬†treats continuously to help maintain physical and mental wellbeing. For dogs exhibiting nervousness, hyperactivity, discontentment, or responding to environmentally-induced stress, CBD products are a winning choice. Another bonus is that¬†CBD is safe¬†and has minimal side effects compared to prescription or over-the-counter medication.

Preparing Your Dog for a Thunderstorm

Your dog is intelligent, but they cannot read a weather report. So when you anticipate thunderstorms, you have the opportunity to prepare your home and your fur baby for what’s to come.

  • Try some behavior modification techniques and let your dog know that you will reward their peaceful behavior.
  • Desensitize your dog to the typical sounds of a rainstorm. Several weeks before restless weather, play a thunder soundtrack at a low volume while playing with your dog. Then, gradually increase the volume to get your dog accustomed to the sound rather than afraid of it.
  • If your dog’s stress causes them to destroy things in the home, contact a veterinary behaviorist for training.
  • Your veterinarian may prescribe medication for dogs with extreme anxiety disorders. In addition, if your pet harms themselves during storms, then veterinary medicine can be an effective solution.
  • Get your dog accustomed to their crate so that they see it as a safe place when thunder strikes.
  • Start giving your pet CBD treats or oil on a¬†treat. The natural product is more effective when it’s given regularly.
  • Get some blackout curtains for your room to minimize the lighting flashes that may scare your dog.
  • Prepare an emergency kit and travel supplies in case a hurricane, flood, or fire approaches.

Doggie Storm Phobia, Bottom Line

Your pet’s wellness is of great concern, and with stress being such a detrimental trigger for health issues, it’s essential to contact your veterinarian if symptoms of fear persist.¬†Stress¬†can lower your dog’s immune system, cause loss of appetite,¬†chronic diarrhea, and it can exasperate existing illness. Being able to weather the storms with your dog is part of life. With some playtime, training, and calming remedies, you can survive the literal storms too.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you calm a dog down during a thunderstorm? 

First, offer your dog calming remedies and emotional support. Then, wait for them to quieten down. Once your dog is content, reward them with a toy, treat, or snuggles on the couch. The use of a Calm Vest can provide comfort for your dog.

What can I give my dog for thunderstorm anxiety? 

For dogs exhibiting nervousness, hyperactivity, discontentment, or responding to environmentally-induced stress, CBD products are a winning choice. In addition, your veterinarian can prescribe medication for extreme stress disorders.

What makes a dog scared of thunder? 

Loud sounds and flashes of lightning scare dogs. Many experts also believe that dogs become stressed because they can sense barometric pressure changes, low-frequency rumbles, and static buildup in the air.

Which dog breeds are afraid of thunder? 

Sporting dog breeds like Spaniels, Retrievers, Pointers, Setters, and herding breeds, like Border Collies, German Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, and Collies, seem more susceptible to storm anxiety.