How to Ease Your Dogs Fear of Thunderstorms

It can break your heart when you have a dog that is scared of thunderstorms and rain.  The pacing, the panting, squeezing themselves behind the toilet, and even clawing through drywall can all start well before the first drops of rain hit the window and only get worse with a clap of thunder or a flash of lightning. It is not uncommon to have a dog that is thunderstorm phobic, but this is something that must be addressed. Your dog is likely to get worse over time if the problem is ignored. Here are some things that can help you recognize, understand, and help ease your dog’s anxiety so that you can enjoy a nice rainy day at home together. There are some things that you can do to help ease your dog's anxiety so that you can better rainy days at home together.

dog hiding under bedHow do I know if my dog is scared of thunderstorms?

Each dog will be different in terms of the behaviors they may exhibit but here are some of the most common signs of thunderstorm phobia in dogs:

  • pacing
  • panting
  • pawing
  • trembling
  • restlessness 
  • barking
  • whining and howling
  • hiding in small places
  • drooling
  • dilated pupils
  • clingy
  • anxiousness
  • destructiveness
  • uncontrollable panic

Why are some dogs scared of storms and others are not?

Thunderstorm fear and anxiety can occur for many reasons and at any age. We may never fully understand why it happens. Here are some factors that can contribute to thunderstorm phobia:

  • Genetics, traumatic experiences, and/or poor socialization or acclimation to storms and loud noises as a puppy.
  • Dropping barometric pressure- in addition to darkening skies, wind, and the sheer noise of thunder can cause fearful reactions in dogs. Some dogs can feel the drop in barometric pressure long before a storm hits.
  • Some dogs do not like loud noises. They can make them uncomfortable or even scared.
  • Static buildup in their fur is another possibility. During a storm, an already nervous dog may get another shock when touching its nose to a metal object. Then mild discomfort could escalate into fear. Reacting to another dog in the house that fears thunderstorms can signal that there is something wrong and something to fear.

lightening strikeYou can make things better by creating a calm environment and trying a few of these helpful tips:

  • Provide Distractions
    • Play with your pet. Give them chew bones, a stuffed Kong, treat-dispensing toys, or a food puzzle toy.
  • Offer a safe spot
    • Let your dog decide where it feels safe, make it comfy. Close the blinds so your pet cannot see lightning.
  • Compete with the thunder
    • Turn on music, television, or a white-noise machine. Soundproof the safe spot with acoustic tiles.
  • Calming Remedies  
    • Try an anti-static/anxiety shirt, aromatherapy (lavender, chamomile), Adaptil pheromone treatment, rub down with an anti-static dryer sheet. 
  • Prescription Medications
    • In some cases, prescription anxiety medications and sedatives can be prescribed by your veterinarian.

DOs and DON’Ts

DO watch the forecast. Your dog will start manifesting anxiety about one hour before the storm event.

DO stay home. For a dog who already fears thunderstorms, being alone will only worsen the anxiety.

DON’T scold or punish your dog. Your reaction to their stress confirms to him that there is something to fear and will make him worse.

DON’T fuss, pet, or try to reassure your dog when he is scared. It is ok to offer comfort to your pet but just keep in mind that he may regard this as a reward for the behavior he is engaging in at that time. By rewarding the behavior, it may become increasingly intense with each future exposure! Although it may be difficult, try to ignore any fearful behavior that occurs.

Be sure to contact us with any questions or concerns.