If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, it can be difficult to watch. You wish you could just tell them that there is nothing to worry about. Plus, a lot of pet parents struggle to calm their pooch. Let's explore!
Why is my dog afraid of thunderstorms?
Dogs perceive plenty of things that we can't feel, see or smell. They sense that a thunderstorm is coming before the first noticeable signs, because they can feel the atmospheric pressure changing.
Dogs are particularly afraid of loud noises during thunderstorms. They are unusual for animals, and they can't, unlike us, understand that they are normal, rational, or know what it is. Dogs can also be afraid of fireworks for the same reasons as thunderstorms.
What to do when a thunderstorm strikes?
When they are afraid, dogs can have different and unpredictable reactions. They could begin to pace, pant, cling to their owners, hide under a table or in a closet, even jam themselves behind a toilet. In severe cases, they could claw at the walls, chew carpets, or break through windows in their escalating panic.
You should keep your dog inside during a thunderstorm. Ideally, offer them a dark place where they can hide, such as an indoor kennel or under a bed. Staying close to your dog should calm them down but try avoid petting them as they may think that you are rewarding them for their behaviour. Equally, avoid punishing them as they could associate thunderstorms with punishment.
In severe cases, medication options are available, but always ask your veterinarian first.
Helping my dog to overcome their phobia
Dog specialists have set up a technique to desensitise your dog to the sounds of a storm. If your dog struggles a lot when a thunderstorm hits, this method may be a great help.
Have a look for a recording of thunderstorm noises (on Youtube for example). Then, take your pup to an isolated and dark room. Make sure that they're calm. Order them to sit and play the recording at a very low volume, almost inaudibly. Play the recording for about 10 minutes and end the session.
Do it again the next day but play the recording a tiny bit louder. If your dog gets agitated, let them calm down for 10 minutes and start again with the volume a little bit lower.
Instead of doing the sessions in isolated rooms, you can also play the recording while your dog is eating. This way, it will associate thunderstorms with pleasant moments.
The aim is to get your dog used to thunderstorm noises on the recording at the same volume as real thunderstorms. It can take some time, so try to be patient.
Is your pup afraid of thunderstorms?