dog scared of thunder

Why is My Dog Afraid of Thunderstorms?

Posted on Posted in Dog Behavior Problems

Is Your Dog Afraid of Thunderstorms?

Having a phobia or fear of thunderstorms is a fairly common issue many dogs face.  That first flash of lighting or roll of thunder can send dogs scurrying from the room in fear and hiding until the storm passes.  Panting, salivation, tucked tail, trembling body, whining, and even self-mutilation are just a few of the responses owners may see.  The question is why are some dogs so fearful of thunderstorms?

  • Some dogs are very sensitive to noise.  Dogs hear things better than we do.  Imagine the sound of thunder from a dog’s point of view.
  • There may have been a previous traumatic experience that resulted in the dog becoming fearful of thunderstorms.  Perhaps the dog was startled by a falling
    tree, or maybe they were left outside during a storm with nowhere to take
    shelter from the fierce wind and heavy rain. Either way, just one negative past experience can have a drastic influence on their future perceptions.
  • During thunderstorms the barometric pressure can change.  It may not be perceptible to us, but our dogs can tell.  This changing of pressure may hurt some dog’s ears.  This is also why some dogs become fearful just before a storm actually begins.  They can feel the pressure changing, and they know a storm is coming.
  • Are you afraid of thunderstorms?  Our dogs can pick up on our emotions.  If their owner is fearful during a storm, the dog may also begin to display signs of fear.
    When a dog’s owner, who is normally collected, calm, confident, and happy, suddenly becomes anxious and afraid the dog may become uncertain.  What is making their owner so fearful?  Do I have something to fear as well?
  • Sometimes people inadvertently over comfort their dog.  They end up reinforcing the very behavior they are trying to stop.  It is okay to want to comfort your dog, but don’t overdo it.  Find another way to distract your dog.

dog afraid of thunderIt is important to remember to be patient with your dog.  Don’t punish them for their fear.  It will only make matters worse.  Give your dog a safe place to hide.  Set up a crate that they can retreat to.  Dogs are den animals, and if a dog is crate trained properly they can seek refuge there. Crates, like dens, are enclosed on three sides.  Your dog will feel secure knowing that they can see what is coming, because there is only one opening.

You can also try to counter-condition your dog.  Try to create more positive associations.  Play a game with your dog to distract them from their fears.  Don’t force your dog to play if they are completely terrified.  Try again another time when they are just starting to exhibit signs of fear.

If your dog is afraid of only the sound of a storm, try buying a CD that replicates this.  Start slow and keep the volume low at first.  Try to do something fun with your dog to distract them from the sound.  Once your dog begins to make progress with this, gradually increase the sound.  Be careful not to push your dog too far too fast.  You don’t want to intensify their fear.  Patience is a key part of any training.  This may take time but will be worth it in the end.

Please feel free to contact us for more information about fear of thunderstorms and other phobias your dog may have at 866.200.2207, or you can email us at training@highlandcanine.com.  We offer dog training programs and behavior modification solutions that get results.

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