Late one stormy night, Lucy noticed that her usually calm and happy dog, Max, was behaving rather strangely. As thunder roared outside, Max’s ears perked up, and he began to tremble with fear. Lucy was at a loss as to why her brave companion was so frightened by the sound of thunder.
Thunderstorms aren’t just scary for humans; they’re terrifying and cause anxiety in dogs. The rumble of thunderstorms, howling winds, and driving rain terrify up to 30% of dogs. There are several reasons why is a dog scared of thunder. Some believe it’s due to the loud noises associated with storms, while others think it’s because of the sudden drop in air pressure. Whatever the reason, here are some things you should know about thunderstorms and how to keep your dog safe during one.
Thunderstorms can cause storm anxiety and panic attacks in some dogs. It turns out that at least 40 percent of all dogs experience noise anxiety. If you notice your dog becoming nervous or fearful during storms, it might be because he associates them with danger. This fear could lead him to become aggressive toward people or animals. You can reduce his stress levels by helping him understand what causes thunderstorms and how he can cope.
A Dog Scared of Thunder
Static builds up in your pet’s coat during a thunderstorm because it acts like a capacitor. When many charged particles move around inside your pet’s body, those charges build up in static electricity. This creates a potential difference across your pet’s skin, which causes an electrical current to flow through your animal companion.
A lightning strike can cause an electrical current to flow through your pet’s entire body, which can be very dangerous. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “lightning strikes are responsible for about 2% of all fatal dog attacks.” So, if you see your pet acting strangely, take them indoors immediately.
Your pet will seek shelter when thunderstorms approach. During a thunderstorm, air pressure drops, and winds pick up speed. These changes in weather conditions make it harder for your pet to breathe. As a result, they will try to find a safe place to hide.
Canine Noise Aversion
Noise phobia is one of the most common behavioral problems seen in dogs. Unfortunately, it is one of the most difficult ones to treat. Most people think that dogs like to hear certain types of music, but there are several reasons why some dogs develop noise phobias. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to a noise phobia, while others experience it due to environmental factors. Regardless of what causes it, noise phobia can be very frustrating for you and your dog.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to help your dog overcome their fear of loud noises. You can start by ensuring that they get plenty of exercises daily. Exercise helps dogs release stress and feel better about themselves. If your dog does not enjoy playing fetch, consider getting them a ball and teaching them how to play catch.
Another way to help your dog deal with noise phobia is to ensure that they always have something interesting to look at. For example, try putting up a mirror or placing a toy near the door so your dog sees themselves when they hear the thunder outside. Finally, try giving your dog treats whenever they bark. This reward system works well because it teaches your dog that barking is positive.
If your dog still seems scared of the noise of the thunder even after doing all of those things, you should consult your veterinarian about trying medication. Medication can help reduce a dog’s fear of loud noises. However, keep in mind that drugs are only sometimes practical. Sometimes, being around another dog who is not afraid of loud noises can help calm down a dog experiencing noise phobia.
If your dog is scared of thunderstorms, he may suffer separation anxiety. This is when dogs become anxious when left alone during storms. They’re afraid of being outside alone because they feel vulnerable and unsafe.
This fear can cause them to bark excessively, pace back and forth, hide, or chew themselves raw. The most common signs of separation anxiety include excessive barking, pacing, hiding, chewing, licking, whining, urinating/defecating, and destructive behavior.
A dog suffering from separation anxiety might seem like just another case of “the dog ate my homework.” But it could be something much worse.
“separation anxiety” describes an anxiety disorder affecting people and animals. Some experts believe that up to half of all pet owners experience separation anxiety.
In addition to causing stress and worry, separation anxiety can lead to destructive behaviors such as chewing, digging, barking, and even biting. And while many dogs can overcome this problem on their own, others require professional help.
How Can You Help Your Dog Deal with Thunderstorms?
You can do several things to help him feel calm and relaxed during thunderstorms.
1. Give Them a Safe Space
The most important thing you can do during a storm is to give your dog a safe place to retreat. This includes a roomy crate, bed, or even a quiet corner where he can feel secure. If you don’t provide a safe space, he might become stressed out and start barking, pacing, or chewing things. He could also try to escape outside, leading to dangerous situations like getting hit by a car or being attacked by another animal.
- Don’t Punish Your Dog for Destructive Behaviors
If your dog destroys something while playing, it doesn’t mean he wants to hurt himself or others. It’s normal behavior for dogs to destroy toys or chew up furniture. It would be best if you didn’t punish your dog for destroying items around the house. Instead, let your dog learn how to play appropriately. For example, if your dog chews up a couch cushion, put it away and replace it with a toy.
- Keep Them Calm During Storms
You can keep your dog calm during a storm by filling his food and water bowls and ensuring he has access to a comfortable spot inside. Ensure your dog knows what to do if loud noises come from outside. If he barks or growls, make sure he’s safely contained.
- Reward Good Behavior
When your dog often does something good, reward him with praise and affection. This helps reinforce positive behavior and makes it easier to repeat.
2. Provide Background Noise
A study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science found that dogs are happier when exposed to background noise, such as classical music. Researchers played recordings of birds chirping, rain falling, and ocean waves while testing the behavior of dogs. They discovered that the animals responded positively to the sound of nature.
The researchers believe that providing background noise helps dogs feel calmer and less stressed. This could explain why some people use white noise machines to help them fall asleep.
3. Soothe Your Dog with Toys, Treats, and More
Chewing and licking are self-comforting behaviors. If you notice your dog doing it, don’t scold him — he might just be trying to comfort himself. But if you see him gnawing on something, give him some toys that help with chewing. You can find many options online. Some dogs like to play tug games with rope toys. Others love squeaky balls. And still, others prefer plush toys.
If your dog tends to chew and lick, try giving him treats that help with his behavior. These include things like rawhide chews, peanut butter, and yogurt. Be sure to supervise your dog while he eats these treats because they’re high in fat.
4. Give Your Dog a Massage
A recent study found that massaging a dog’s head can help calm him down during stormy weather. Researchers at Texas A&M University used a device called TTouch to apply pressure to the dogs’ heads while watching a thunderstorm video clip. They found that the dogs showed less fearful behavior when they received the massage. So help him feel calmer by giving him a massage.
Touch is a form of therapy known as therapeutic touch. This type of massage involves slow, long strokes combined using finger pads. It helps relieve pain and relax muscles. It’s been shown to reduce anxiety in humans too. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. When you feel anxious, your body releases cortisol into your bloodstream. So if he’s feeling anxious, his cortisol levels will increase.
5. Desensitize Your Dog to the Sounds of a Storm
Desensitization is a common behavior modification technique used to teach dogs how to cope with situations they find stressful. For example, it’s often recommended to train dogs to become less fearful of fireworks because they are loud and scary. However, desensitization doesn’t work well with thunderstorms because there isn’t much else about them that makes them frightening.
Desensitizing your dog during a thunderstorm is a good idea. When thunder roars, dogs tend to run away from the noise, causing them to miss important information, like where the lightning is coming from. So if you want to ensure your dog stays safe during a storm, don’t let him outside when it gets dark. Instead, keep him inside and play calming music while watching TV or playing with his toys.
6. Distract Your Dog
Dogs are compassionate creatures. They’re easily frightened by loud noises, bright lights, sudden movements, and unfamiliar smells.
- Try to distract your dog with food treats. Dogs are naturally drawn to food, so this works well.
- Use a leash to lead your dog away from windows and doors.
- Play his favorite game. This should make him enjoy himself and not think about the storm.
If none of these methods work, you may need to stay indoors until the storm passes. But remember, there’s no guarantee that your dog won’t panic and bolt out of the house. So, if he does, go after him and bring him back inside.
Frequently Asked Questions
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