If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, you know just how stressful it can be for both of you. Your dog may pace, pant, drool and tremble during storms. They may even try to hide in the bathtub or closet. Thunderstorm phobia can lead to serious problems like property damage or self-injury if the behavior isn’t addressed. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your fearful friend feel more relaxed during storms.
Dogs and Thunderstorm Phobia
Dogs can be fearful of thunderstorms. Studies have shown that up to 60% of dogs suffer from some degree of thunderstorm phobia. Dogs may also be afraid of loud noises, such as fireworks, or other stimuli that resemble the sound and feeling of a storm (i.e., an ice cream truck).
If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, you can help him overcome his fear in a number of ways:
Desensitizing your dog to loud noises.
- Desensitization is a slow process and takes patience. Start off with low-level noises, like a kettle whistling or a radio playing music softly in the background.
- Thunderstorm Apps: There are many apps available that simulate thunderstorms for dogs on various devices (iPad Air 2/3; iPhone 5S/6S Plus; Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge). While these apps will not replace desensitization exercises, they do provide some relief from anxiety by providing consistent background noise during storms that can help drown out loud crashes of thunder and lightning flashes.
- If you don’t have access to a thunderstorm app, there are other ways you can help your dog relax during storms. For instance, try massaging their feet or brushing them while they listen to the sounds of rain falling outside. You may be able to use this time together as an opportunity for bonding as well!
Changing your dog’s emotional response to thunderstorms.
To change your dog’s emotional response to thunderstorms, you can use a positive approach.
- Focus on what he likes: Dogs are prey animals, so it makes sense that they might be afraid of thunderstorms because they think it’s the sound of something chasing them. Try to get them excited about something else and then play that game during a storm. If they love playing fetch with tennis balls or frisbees or squeaky toys or whatever their favorite is, set up some games where those things come out right before it starts raining or when the sky gets really dark and loud outside. And then don’t give him access to these things when there’s no storm coming—this will prevent him from ever seeing these things as predictors of bad weather (which they aren’t).
- Use positive reinforcement: You can also use rewards (like treats) instead of punishment if your dog exhibits any bad behavior as a result of being scared during storms/thunderstorms; rewarding good behavior would help calm down his nerves so that he feels safe enough from harm during these stressful times!
Managing your dog’s behavior during thunderstorms.
- Keep your dog in a safe place. Avoid leaving your dog unattended during storms, and if you cannot keep them with you, make sure they are safely confined to one room or area of the house.
- Do not leave your dog unattended if they are destructive or otherwise prone to boredom. If this is the case, try to distract them with a toy or treat that they enjoy playing with while trying to keep them calm. If possible, turn on some relaxing music as well!
A combination of desensitization, counterconditioning, and management is the best approach for dealing with thunderstorm phobia in dogs.
There are three main approaches to dealing with thunderstorm phobia in dogs: desensitization, counterconditioning, and management.
Desensitization is a process of exposure to a stimulus that causes anxiety or fear in a safe environment. This is done by exposing your dog to the sounds of thunderstorms through music or recordings until he is no longer fearful.
Counterconditioning is a process of associating a stimulus with a positive event. You can use this method by playing games with your dog on hot days during storms, such as fetch or tug-of-war. If you have an outdoor area where you can safely let him run around off leash (like an enclosed deck or yard), that would be great!
Just make sure the space isn’t too small—you want your dog to feel like he has plenty of room for movement and playtime when he’s outside during bad weather!
While thunderstorm phobia can be a serious problem, it’s often possible to manage the issue so that your dog is comfortable and safe. Combining desensitization, counterconditioning, and management techniques will help you create a good plan for dealing with storms.
It’s important to remember that this is an ongoing process, however; you should continue your training even after the symptoms of phobia are gone. It’s also important that you remain calm during storms to keep from triggering any anxiety your dog may have. By using these tips on how to ease your dog’s fear of storms, we hope that he or she will be able to enjoy thunderstorms without getting too scared!