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Fear of Thunder in Dogs

Fear of Thunder in Dogs

Author WDF Staff

30.09.2019.


Astraphobia, or „thunder phobia,“ as its name suggests, is an abnormal fear of thunder and lightning common in dogs.

Veterinarians aren't entirely sure about what triggers this fear. Many of them suspect that dogs are set off by some combination of loud sounds, wind, thunder, lightning, shaking of the ground as the thunder hits, static electricity, and barometric pressure changes happening in the air before and during the storm.

Symptoms

According to one study, about one-third of the dog population is scared of thunderstorms that can upset many of them to the point of panic. Some experts believe that some breeds are predisposed to have this phobia (Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, Vizsla, Border Collie, Labrador Retriever, Havanese, Bichon Frise, etc.). The fact that the fear of thunder is more common in some breeds than others supports their belief.

Astraphobia usually causes dogs to:

  • Shake
  • Whine
  • Bark
  • Hide
  • Urinate inside the house
  • Even run away while searching for a safe place.

A scared dog may also experience panting, yawning, licking, and clinging to its human.

dog in city

How to help a scared dog

Dealing with a scared and anxious dog is not easy. Understanding, patience, and persistence are essential. You should never yell at an anxious dog because that will only elevate their fear of thunder. There are some things you can do to help your scared dog, and the best things you can do are these.

Calming voice

Talk to the dog calmly. Let them know you are near, and you will protect them, but don’t cuddle the dog too much because that can also complicate the problem. Cuddling an anxious dog too much teaches the dog that their anxious behavior is acceptable.

Safe place

You can do a great thing for your scared dog by providing them a safe place to hide during the storm — somewhere quiet and hidden, where the dog will feel protected. Most anxious dogs pick the bathroom (usually inside a bathtub or behind a toilet) as their safe place when there is a thunderstorm outside.

Dogs can often suffer from separation anxiety, and this article can let you know how to handle that problem - Separation Anxiety In Dogs.

Fill their safe place with familiar things like their bed, favorite toys, treats, and even a bit of their food. Also, make sure to close curtains on windows so the dog cannot see outside. 

dog looking outside of window

Distraction

You can help your dog during storms by distracting them. Turn on the TV, put on some music, or simply play with them (if they are up for that). All these activities will drown out the noise from outside, and while they are playing, they will not be thinking about a storm happening outside.

Desensitizing

Another thing you can do to minimize astraphobia is to prepare your dog for the sounds of thunder. For example, you can play thunder sounds quietly in the house while there is no storm outside. Give your dog treats so they can associate the sounds of the storm with yummy treats.

Over time, you can gradually increase the volume of thunder sounds in the background so when a real storm hits; it won’t be too loud for your dog. That way, your dog will get desensitized and will get over their fear of thunder.

Sedatives

If your dog is panicking hard when there is a storm raging outside, and nothing described in this text helps, you should talk to your veterinarian. In such difficult cases of astraphobia, veterinarians usually prescribe some mild (often herbal) sedative that allows a dog to feel calmer.

Snugging shirts

According to some vets, dogs are sometimes afraid of the thunder because they may experience shocks from the build-up of static electricity that accompanies thunderstorms.

This is why snug-fitting shirts and wraps are extremely popular. These shirts are designed with one goal – to calm an anxious dog. They apply gentle pressure on a dog’s body, which reduces anxiety (similar to a hug – hugging puts pressure on the sympathetic nervous system, causing a hugged person’s body to release relaxing hormones and calm down).

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement should be practiced throughout the year, not only during stressful times. Make sure you reward your dog’s good behavior. Establish good associations by giving them a treat now and then when they are calm. That way, your dog will have a great initiative and a mental map that will lead them to be calm.

Dogs can easily get scared after experiencing other natural events like earthquakes. This article can help you calm and help your dog - How To Help Your Dog In Case Of Earthquake.

World Dog Finder team

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