Understanding Dogs’ Fear of Thunderstorms: Why Does it Happen?
The phenomenon of dogs hating thunderstorms has intrigued many, with experts still uncovering the full spectrum of reasons behind this fear. According to Trista Miller (a CPDT-certified trainer), a dog’s acute sensitivity to sound plays a pivotal role in their apprehension of thunderstorms. She explains:
“Dogs possess extraordinarily powerful hearing capabilities, often detecting thunder long before humans can perceive it.”
Furthermore, Miller suggests that this fear might be instinctual, deeply rooted in dogs’ survival instincts. She notes that it’s a natural response for animals to fear loud noises, seeking refuge from potential threats. Thunder, being one such loud noise, triggers this response. Moreover, she theorizes that dogs could also be sensitive to changes in air pressure and potentially even static electricity, perceiving subtle phenomena that elude human senses.
Soothing Your Dog During a Thunderstorm: Effective Strategies
Provide a Safe Space:
During a thunderstorm, the best approach is to allow your dog to retreat to their secure place without chastising them for any anxious behaviour, including destruction or whining. Miller emphasizes that dogs often seek out spaces reminiscent of dens, finding comfort in confined, familiar environments where they can avoid surprises and feel secure.
To reduce stress, create an environment where your dog can’t hear thunder or see lightning. Alongside offering a dark, sheltered space, introduce background noise to mitigate stimulation. Just as it can calm humans, classical music proves particularly soothing to dogs. Don’t be afraid to show your pooch some love. Speak in a calm soothing manner while gently petting them can help.
Engage with Toys, Treats, and More
Chewing and puzzle toys can serve as effective coping mechanisms for dogs during thunderstorms. These self-soothing behaviours can redirect their anxiety in a positive direction. Consider using toys like the Lickimat smeared with dog-friendly treats to keep them engaged. Additionally, calming treats, CBD oil, kongs filled with treats, or anxiety vests can be beneficial.
Learn Your Dog’s Body Language
Instead of reacting negatively to your dog’s anxiety during a storm, strive to understand their behaviour and respond appropriately. Dogs are adept at conveying their emotions through body language, so familiarize yourself with their cues. Identifying signs of distress beforehand allows you to have a plan in place to calm your dog before their anxiety escalates.
5 Tips to Ease Your Dog’s Storm Anxiety
Thunderstorm anxiety is a distressing experience for both dogs and their owners. Here are some practical steps to help alleviate your dog’s fear during storms:
- Provide a Safe Haven: Dogs seek safety in familiar spaces during storms, like kennels, closets, or under covers. Allow them to retreat to their chosen sanctuary.
- Stay Calm and Distract: Avoid overconsoling your dog, as it can reinforce their fear. Instead, be present and provide distractions such as playing with a ball, brushing their fur, or sharing a snack to divert their attention from the storm.
- Try a Thundershirt: Consider using a Thundershirt, which applies gentle, constant pressure to your dog, akin to swaddling a baby. This snug fit can help calm some dogs.
- Utilize Soothing Sounds: Play calming music, TV, or white noise to drown out the storm’s frightening sounds. Classical music, in particular, has been recommended by veterinary behaviorists.
- Consult Your Vet: If your dog’s anxiety during storms remains unmanageable, consult your veterinarian for assistance. Effective and safe anti-anxiety medications may be recommended to alleviate their distress. (See our CBD product: CBD Pet Oil with Zero THC)
Don’t let your dog suffer needlessly during thunderstorms; try these strategies to provide comfort and ease their anxiety.