Thunder is just a normal part of experiencing storms, but many dogs are afraid of thunder. Some dogs may seem a little bit nervous when it thunders, while other dogs are exceptionally afraid of thunder to the point they may become destructive and overly fearful. The first step to managing your dog’s thunder phobia is understanding why dogs are sometimes afraid of thunder in the first place. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Are Dogs Scared of Thunder?
Dogs can be afraid of a variety of loud noises outside of thunder, from fireworks to construction noise. This is often referred to as a noise phobia, but for some dogs, the phobia seems specific to thunder. It’s possible that the reason for this is that thunder is accompanied by a variety of other environmental changes that may be stressful for your dog. Dogs tend to be far more sensitive than humans to changes in barometric pressure, which can change significantly when the weather is stormy. On top of pressure changes, the rain and lightning can also be stressful for your dog. These factors all may make your dog more likely to be fearful of thunder than just loud noises.
It’s a natural part of your dog’s survival instinct to be somewhat fearful of loud noises. In the wild, loud noises can activate your dog’s fight or flight instincts. In a natural setting, loud noises can indicate danger, like the presence of large animals and landslides. Domestic dogs are often raised around typical loud household noises and the sounds of regular storms, and most dogs don’t seem to be fearful of loud noises. That doesn’t mean that a phobia of thunder is abnormal, though.
Managing Your Dog’s Thunder Phobia
The good news is that thunder phobias are typically very manageable for most dogs. If your dog’s anxiety surrounding thunder and storms seems to be mild, often accompanied with a little bit of panting, drooling, pacing, or resistance to go outside. Shirts and wraps that are designed to “hug” your dog can help relieve anxiety in these situations, although they may lose efficacy if overused. Other products, like calming chews and dog ear muffs, can also be effective.
If your dog’s thunder phobia is moderate or severe, prescription medications from your veterinarian may be necessary. Specialized trainers that help with behavioral changes can also help in this type of situation. You may also need to invest in noise dampeners for your home and, in extreme cases, an extremely sturdy crate may be necessary to keep your dog contained and safe, especially if you are going to be out of the home.
A phobia of thunder can vary in severity between dogs, but if your dog seems to have any fear of storms or thunder, it’s best to start managing the anxiety as soon as you notice it. If a thunder phobia is allowed to go unchecked, it is likely to worsen over time. You may need to speak to your dog’s vet or a trainer to help you manage moderate to severe fear of storms and thunder. A fear of loud noises like thunder can be a normal response for some dogs, but management is possible with appropriate interventions.