Thunderstorms are a powerful weather event that we are all too familiar with. They often bring lots of rain, lightning, and thunder. These elements of a strong storm cell are often unnerving for us.
Dogs are scared of storms due to the sound of thunder. With dogs having more acute hearing than humans, the sheer sound of the rumbling of thunder is what makes them scared. They can often feel the vibrations of the storm which causes them to tremble.
While we can find these storms intense, dogs are well-known for being scared of storms. Our furry friends are known for hiding, running, or even shaking during an intense thunderstorm.
As humans, we aren’t generally scared of storms, but we certainly notice when our dogs are!
Why Are Dogs Scared Of Storms?
Seeing our pups run away scared during a storm makes us ponder on why this react this way. To us, it is a storm that will pass. To dogs, it is an entirely different story. It is no secret that dogs are much smaller than humans, so their perception of sound is much different.
What is loud to us could be even louder to our pups. Dogs aren’t afraid of the rain or even the lightning parts of a storm. It is the thunder that is so intimidating. A loud crack of thunder is an extreme sound to a dog.
A dog could consider this sound as threatening. Moreover, the sound is completely unfamiliar to them. Storms don’t happen every single day, so the sound of thunder isn’t a sound that they are used to hearing.
Because of this, dogs tend to be afraid. It is important for pet owners to put themselves in the position of their dog. If we were smaller in size and heard something as mighty as thunder, we would probably be scared too!
A common association that is made between dogs and their fear of thunder is called “canine noise aversion”. This can refer to any loud, intimidating noise that a dog is subjected to.
An example of this would be fireworks. Fireworks often have the same effect on dogs as thunderstorms do; they run away in fear. Often times, they will hide in places like a bathtub, behind toilets, in closets, or even under the bed.
A lot of these places are simply a hiding place for the dog so that they can feel secure.
Some of the places that dogs choose to hide during a storm are strange. A particular example is a bathtub. Most of the “science” behind why dogs are afraid of storms is simply based on observation and conclusions are drawn from those observations.
It has been suggested that the bathtubs or even toilet areas make a dog feel secure since these are grounded objects against electrical discharges, which is sometimes associated with lightning from a storm.
Moreover, it can be related to the static electricity that storms are known to produce.
While we are not known to feel static electricity that is generated from a thunderstorm, dogs might be able to. This would result in them getting zapped by the static electricity.
It is thought that bathtubs and other areas like that might provide protection for the dog from these little zaps. Places with carpet are usually not a preferred hiding spot as they can increase static electricity.
While noise and the static electricity are common reasons dogs are afraid of storms, there are other factors as well. These can include pounding rain, wind noises, lightning, smells, and even rumbling.
The common theme behind all of these causes is the noise factor. Certain, unfamiliar noises are the root cause behind dogs being afraid of storms
Can Dogs Sense Storms?
Many people question whether or not dogs can “sense” storms. The short answer is yes, they are known to sense upcoming storms. This isn’t to say they have a crystal ball hiding somewhere.
Rather, animals (just not dogs!), are known to pick up a sense of oncoming weather events. This is primarily done through frequencies that they can hear or even feel that we are unable to feel or hear.
When referring to the “feeling” part of how dogs sense storms, it is directly related to barometric pressure. When there is a drop in the air pressure within the atmosphere, dogs are known to feel this change.
The exact science behind a dog’s ability to sense storms hasn’t been pinpointed. Instead, simple observations have been made about their reactions to storms and upcoming storms that have been related to this phenomenon.
A good example of something similar is to consider an animal’s ability to sense oncoming earthquakes. All animals can possess the ability to sense these types of things.
Earthquakes are an underground movement that can be felt by animals, even house cats! While there isn’t necessarily a science behind the “sensing’ of storms or natural phenomenons, there is a behavioural change in our pets, especially dogs, during storms.
Why Does My Dog Shake During Thunderstorms?
There are many ways a dog might show its fear from a thunderstorm. One of the biggest ways a dog shows their fear is through shaking. While this is uncomfortable to witness, the dog isn’t in any actual pain.
The shaking is attributed to the sheer fear of the storm and noises that are coming from it. While the noise is the largest contributor to the shaking and overall fear in the dog, the flashes from the lightning and even the scent of the storm can affect the pup as well.
This is where the fear of the storm becomes an encompassed feeling for the dog and ultimately leads to shaking.
Although shaking is the most common sign of fear in a dog that is scared of a storm, there are signs to watch out for as well. Knowing all the possible signs of a scared dog due to a thunderstorm will help pet owners in soothing their frightened pups!
Below are other common signs of a scared dog during a storm.
Signs Of A Scared Dog During A Thunderstorm
- Excessing barking
- Destructive behavior
- Whimpering or whining
- Excessive drooling
These are the other signs that pet owners might witness from their dogs during a storm. Every dog is different, so the signs might slightly differ, but overall, there is a pattern associated with dogs exhibiting these behaviors.
Moreover, these signs can occur in any breed or size of a dog. Some people might think that smaller dogs are the type that is most bothered by a storm. However, that simply isn’t true.
Even bigger dogs can experience some discomfort with a storm. Once again, this is primarily due to the noise produced from the thunder during a storm.
How Do You Calm A Dog During A Thunderstorm?
Seeing your pup scared is never pleasant so finding a way to soothe them is a real feeling of relief! Not only does it give you relief but also your dog, if a dog feels safe during a storm, it helps them realize that there is comfort among all the noise!
But what are the ways to calm a dog during a storm? Below are the top ways to consider calming your dog during a thunderstorm!
Best Ways To Calm A Dog During A Thunderstorm
Wrap The Dog In A Blanket Or Invest In A Storm Coat
Creatures in all walks of life feel secure when there is a blanket wrapped around them. This is true of human infants, dogs, guinea pigs, etc. A warm, blanket wrapped just tight enough to encompass the body really relieves a lot of the pressure that is being felt.
Another approach to this method is investing in a storm coat made specifically for dogs. These coats fit snuggly, similar to a blanket, around the dogs mid-section to help calm them down during a strong storm.
Create A Distraction Or Give Attention
Creating a distraction to occupy the dog’s attention is another effective way to help them weather the storm. This can be done by turning on music, switching on the television, or turning on a box fan.
Some storms might be louder than others, so this method isn’t always practical. When it is practical though, it is helpful in getting a dog to focus on something else. It is also important to note that this method shouldn’t become too loud because then it defeats its purpose.
It should be just loud out to drown out sounds from the storm if the storm isn’t too terrible.
Designate A Dog Comfort Zone
Having a ready-to-go comfort zone for a dog to utilise during a storm is another great idea. The first step to trying this method is to observe where the dog goes when a storm hits.
Typically, they will frequent the same spots. Choosing the most visited spot is key. In this location, it can be a good idea to put pillows, blankets, or even their favorite toys down during a storm.
These familiar items will help them associate a positive thing about their hiding spot during a storm, making them feel even more secure!
Close The Blinds Or Curtains
While thunder is the largest culprit behind the fear in a dog during a storm, lightning can an issue as well. Closing the blinds during a storm is a good way to reduce how much light from the lightning is emitted into the house. If there are no blinds in a window, it might be a good idea to try and cover them as best as possible.
Keep The Dog Company
Keeping the dog company simply means being around the pup during the storm, if possible. The best way to keep a dog company is through an attempt to play with them.
Get their favourite toy and attempt engaging playtime. This can also be considered a distraction since it is redirecting their focus to something else. That is the main purpose behind keeping them company.
This method is also useful in keeping their mentality stable during the storm as well.
Consider Desensitization Training
Dogs are able to be trained through positive reinforcement. Learned behaviours through positive reinforcement are often the most successful.
But what does it mean? Positive reinforcement is offering a toy or treats to a dog after it does certain behaviours. Through repetition, the dog learns to become positively associated with something.
In this case, the goal is to desensitize them to the sound of thunder. Playing the sound of thunder, at a very low volume, is a great start. Offer treats or a toy every time the sound is being played and increase the volume ever so slightly.
It is important to note that this might not work on all dogs. However, it might be beneficial to try for those who react to thunder with extreme behaviour or scaredness.
Use Their Crate As A Safe Space
Crate usage among the dog community is highly debated. Either people use them or they don’t. Their primary purpose is to help contain our pets while we are away. For those dogs who have a crate, using a crate during a storm might be a helpful tool.
Typically, their crates will already have a dog bed, pillow, or blankets inside as well as a water bowl, etc. The best way to use this method is to give the dog access to their crate during a storm by simply leaving the crate’s door open.
They should never be contained and locked in their crates during a storm. This will only intensify their feelings of scaredness and their inability to escape the sounds or lights from the storm.
Rather, this open-door method of using the crate allows them to freely enter and exit this safe space as they please during the storm.
Stay Calm With A Steady Voice
Keeping a calm and steady voice during a storm is important. Dogs can sense our emotions and if they hear and see us acting in a calm way, they can feel better overall about the storm.
Pet owners who exhibit calm and steady behaviour are setting a good example for their dogs. While dogs are known to hide and become fearful of thunderstorms, they also seek out ways to make themselves feel more secure. Seeing their owners in a good emotional state can aid them in feeling secure.
Why Is My Dog Panting During A Storm?
Panting means that a dog is breathing heavily, with their tongues out. This is usually accompanied by drooling as well. This behavior is linked to a few things, but it is mostly linked to a feeling of fear or excitement.
Considering they are afraid of the storm, panting behaviour is a direct relation to the fear side of this reasoning.
Once again, in order to curb their fears and anxiety over a storm, it is important to try calming the dog down with the aforementioned methods.
Should I Let My Dog Hide During A Storm?
When a dog is afraid of a storm, it is because they feel unsafe. When they “seek shelter” or flee to find a hiding space, it is important to allow them their space.
Because of this, it might be a good idea to take advantage of creating a safe space for them during the storm. Once again, this includes filling their hiding spot with blankets, pillows, dog beds, toys, etc, anything they are familiar with that will bring them comfort.
We want our pups to be comfortable and helping them out during a storm is critical to their mental health.
Studies have shown that dogs, and other animals, can exhibit behavioural mental issues like anxiety. This behaviour transpires into the shaking, panting, fleeing, etc. that we witness during a storm.
In order to help them gain control over their feelings during this time it is beneficial to allow them to hide. Disciplining them for hiding can have negative effects on the dogs’ overall attitude.
Instead, we should find ways to soothe, comfort, and get them through the storm by implementing tactics known to help dogs in these situations. In the long run, dogs will find that storms are still scary, yet find them less intimidating because they know they will have a comfort zone to go to.
Another way to look at the behavioural patterns in dogs during storms is to consider the stress it is putting on them. Anxiety brought on by storms is a stressful situation for a dog. Once again, the size of the dog doesn’t matter.
Any size dog can be affected by the noises of a storm. The reasoning behind their fear lays within the stress that the noise is causing them. Furthermore, this stress is intensified if a dog feels it cannot find the safety of a hiding spot or comfort zone.
This is why letting them hide is so imperative. Their access to a hiding spot or comfort zone will help diminish the feeling of stress they are experiencing.
Whether it is panting, shaking, fleeing or one of the other signs of fear that a dog shows during a storm, it is good to know that pet owners can help. A dog doesn’t have to go through a scary storm alone.
Pet owners can take action to help a dog through their phobia about stormy weather. This common occurrence among most dogs doesn’t have to become a long-term issue.
With a calm approach and ample space, dogs can be given comfort throughout a storm. When combined with other methods in relieving their stress, dogs can find peace of mind during a thunderstorm.
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