Thunderstorms can be very distressing, with intense sights and sounds. With heightened senses, dogs may feel these sensations more intensely than humans. This causes some dogs to develop a fear of thunderstorms. Dogs can exhibit many different signs of distress when a thunderstorm occurs. Some of the signs to watch for include:
- Drooling or Panting
- Barking or Whining
- Destructive Actions
Causes of Thunderstorm Phobia in Dogs
Overall, some dogs are prone to thunderstorm phobias. Certain breeds, such as Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds, are more likely to develop anxiety or phobias. You cannot know which puppy will develop these fears in a litter and which will not. However, knowing that your dog’s breed has a higher chance of developing these phobias may help you handle the symptoms in the future.
Dogs associate their surroundings when they experience a traumatic event. Being trapped outside during a storm or being surprised by a sudden rumble of thunder can cause intense fear. Additionally, dogs traumatized in other startling situations are prone to develop fears during thunderstorms.
Lack of Socialization
Socializing your dog early and often can be a cure for many ailments. A lack of socialization can cause increased anxiety and make your dog prone to developing phobias.
Sensitivity to Sound
Thunderstorms are loud. Dogs that are already sensitive to loud sounds like fireworks or the vacuum may also develop a fear of thunderstorms. These fears can develop over time if your dog suffers from a medical condition. Hearing impairments and tinnitus will cause increased sensitivity to loud sounds.
How to Comfort Your Dog During a Thunderstorm
When a thunderstorm hits, some dogs may become anxious and fearful. As a dog owner, knowing how to comfort your furry friend during these times is essential.
Creating a Safe Space
You should create a safe space for your dog to help your dog feel safe during a thunderstorm. Dogs should always have an area of their own, whether a crate or a bed. Keep your dog’s space away from windows and doors where the sound of thunder and fireworks could be amplified. When a thunderstorm is looming, place your dog in his safe space. Not only will the area comfort your dog, but it will also keep him from hurting himself.
Distractions are an excellent way to comfort your pet during a thunderstorm. During a storm, play calming sounds to distract from the noise outside. Additionally, you can play games with your dog that engage his mind. You can attempt some obedience or trick training. For some dogs, a good game of fetch will keep your dog distracted from the noises outside.
Overall, distractions are an excellent tool to use to help your dog through a storm. However, it is not a long-term solution. Using a distraction means you are present with your dog, but thunderstorms can happen anytime. It would be difficult to calm your dog while away from home.
Training Techniques to Alleviate Fear
You can try several behavioral training methods to help your dog through the next thunderstorm. Practice each of these techniques before a storm hits. Do not try them for the first time during a storm while your dog is fearful.
One natural way to alleviate the fear of thunderstorms in your dog is to desensitize him to it. With technology today, you can play thunderstorm sounds in a controlled environment.
Begin by playing the sounds at a low volume. When your dog becomes accustomed to this sound, increase the volume. You will want to repeat this technique multiple times to increase your dog’s comfort with the sound of thunder. If you see any signs of fear or increased anxiety in your dog, turn the sound off and try again on a different day.
Counter conditioning is a behavioral technique that pairs the traumatic experience (thunderstorm) with positive associations. If you successfully use this training, your dog will associate a thunderstorm with something positive, like playtime or treats.
As with desensitization training, you will play thunderstorms in a controlled environment at a low volume. As the sound plays, begin positive actions with your dog, like playtime. This method works well because it re-wires your dog’s brain. Anxiety and stress will no longer be associated with the sound of thunderstorms.
Medications and Natural Remedies
There are several medications that a veterinarian can prescribe to help your dog through stressful situations. Your veterinarian will steer you in the best direction. Some of the medicinal choices are:
- Anti-anxiety medications
Medications should be an option explored under the guidance of your veterinarian. Furthermore, some of these medications have adverse side effects. Many medications must be given before a thunderstorm, so you must be with your dog during the storm.
There are also a few natural remedies that can be used to help calm a dog during a thunderstorm. Some of these are environmental, while others are supplements.
For instance, calming music and essential oils can set the environment for your dog. White noise or calming music can help drown out the sound of thunder. Additionally, pet-safe essential oils such as lavender and chamomile will reduce stress. Always place these essential oils in safe places.
While working with a veterinarian, you can also give your dog CBD oil. CBD oil is known to have calming effects on dogs in stressful situations. Also, there is CBD oil specifically formulated for pets.Finally, you can purchase a thunder shirt for your dog. A thunder shirt is a tight-fitting garment that wraps around your dog. The compression provides a sense of safety and comfort during a thunderstorm. Many owners swear by the calming effects of thunder shirts.