If your dog is afraid of thunder, it may not be apparent what you can do to ease your pet through the storm. Understanding the origins of the fear and learning how to interpret your dog’s behavior can help you develop a healthy strategy to reduce the impact of storm-related stress on your dog.
Why Dogs Are Afraid of Thunder
There are many similarities in the way dogs and very young children relate to the world around them. The biggest difference between dogs and children is that children develop a capacity for using and comprehending language. Children can express fears and concerns. They can hear explanations and understand situations in a way that will allow them to overcome their fears.
Your dog won’t be capable of that. As smart as dogs can be, they’re unable to comprehend weather and understand why thunder isn’t anything to be afraid of. Your dog only knows that there are loud booms coming from outside that shake the window panes. They can’t readily grasp the fact that they’re not in danger.
Put yourself in your dog’s paws for a moment: if you had no idea what thunder was and no one could explain it to you, you’d probably be just as scared.
Other Things Dogs Are Often Afraid Of
Dogs are often afraid of all loud sounds, especially when they can’t identify the origins. Dogs may not be afraid of the sound of a loud stereo or TV if they can see the source of the noise. They may come to understand what’s happening.
The sound of fireworks or construction on the neighbor’s roof may not be as easy for your dog to understand. Most neighborhoods typically only see fireworks around Independence Day and New Years’ Eve. They aren’t exposed to the sound enough to completely work through their fears.
If you can help your dog become acclimated to thunder, their reaction to similar loud noises like fireworks or construction sounds may also diminish with time. The goal is to help your dog feel comfortable and understand that the sounds they’re hearing are normal.
How a Dog May React to Thunder
Dogs express fear in different ways. Sometimes, fear looks like aggression. It may look like sadness or erratic behavior. Your dog’s personality will dictate the way they respond to thunder or other scary sounds.
Trying to “Scare It Off”
Some dogs respond to things that scare them by attempting to act bigger or more intimidating. Your dog may bark, growl, or posture defensively by the windows or the door. Your dog doesn’t understand that their behavior won’t scare the thunder away because they don’t know that the thunder isn’t a living creature producing that sound.
It may be hard to touch or interact with your dog while they’re in this defensive state. You should avoid doing so. You don’t want to further agitate your dog while they’re on edge. The last thing you want is for your dog to nip or scratch you while in an agitated state. They won’t mean you harm, but they may inadvertently cause harm. They’re simply too wound up to understand what’s going on.
Distracting your dog from the source of the sound makes it easier to safely intervene.
Engaging in Nervous Habits
Nervous dogs may tuck their tails between their legs. Their ears may point down. They might pant, whine, cry, or pace. Some nervous dogs may inappropriately urinate indoors. Chewing is a common nervous habit among dogs. Dogs may chew on themselves or chew excessively on toys or furniture to mitigate the stress they’re feeling.
Attempting To Hide
When dogs are afraid, they may attempt to hide. This is much easier for small dogs. Small dogs may hide under the furniture or between the couch and the wall. They may crawl under beds or tuck themselves into a pile of blankets or pillows to conceal themselves.
Larger dogs will also try to hide, although the results can be comically ineffective. Large dogs might attempt to hide in the bathtub or stow themselves away in a closet. Although your dog isn’t doing a particularly great job of concealing themselves, they likely feel safe where they’re at. If you don’t mind them occupying that space, you can allow them to stay there.
What To Do When Your Dog is Afraid of Loud Noises
When your dog is afraid of loud noises like thunder, your first instinct will be to comfort or coddle your dog. That’s not an absurd thought. You love your pets, and you want them to feel secure. It probably upsets you to see your dog acting scared. You want to do whatever you can to make your pet feel better.
The problem with comforting your dog when they’re afraid of natural phenomena is that you’re teaching your dog to expect attention or positive reinforcement for showing this fearful, possibly aggressive behavior.
The best thing to do instead is to desensitize your dog to thunder. In the long run, it’s better for your animal. If you can help your pet overcome their fear response, they’ll have an easier life with much less stress. If there’s a thunderstorm when you aren’t home, your dog will be perfectly fine.
Some dogs have short attention spans. This is a curse when you’re attempting to train your dog, but an absolute blessing during a thunderstorm. If playing a game or taking out a favorite toy pulls your dog’s attention away from the storm, go for it.
Just don’t give your dog treats or special rewards to validate their fear or anxiety response. You don’t want them to associate being afraid with being loved. Instead, take out puzzle toys or other activities that will occupy your dog’s brainpower while the worst of the storm passes.
Introducing More Noise
As strange as it sounds, making your house a little more loud may help to offset the effects of the storm. Thunderclaps can be very jarring in a quiet environment. If they’re one of many sounds your dog is hearing, they might mesh with the soundscape. Play music or turn up the television to a moderate volume to create a constant stream of noise. After a few moments, the thunder may become a part of an ordinary active soundscape.
Allowing Your Dog To Self-Manage
If your dog self-soothes in a healthy way, there’s no reason to stop that behavior. If your dog wants to cover up in their bed with their quilt and stay there, there’s no harm in that. As long as your dog isn’t chewing or showing signs of severe distress, there’s no reason not to allow them to safely pacify themselves.
Using CBD Supplements
VETCBD Hemp’s CBD tincture is formulated specifically to help relax and calm your pet. If your pet is too afraid of a thunderstorm for you to productively intervene, our CBD tincture can help, naturally. It’s formulated by vets and made of American-grown hemp. It won’t get your dog high, but it does help to relieve feelings of tension and restlessness in your pet caused by environmental stressors like thunder.
CBD also has other benefits to help support your pet’s overall wellness. In addition to calming your pet during thunderstorms, CBD can help to support the healthy function of your pet’s digestive system and joint mobility.
Be Patient With Your Scaredy Pup
You may need to be patient when helping your dog navigate scary thunderstorms, and our veterinarian-formulated CBD can help. CBD can work to promote calm and balance in your dog without intoxicating or sedating them. Creating productive distractions and desensitizing your dog to loud sounds may take some time, but keep trying. Eventually, thunderstorm fear will be a thing of the past.
Canine researcher puts dogs' intelligence on par with 2-year-old human | American Psychological Association
Dog breeds really do have distinct personalities—and they’re rooted in DNA | Science Magazine
Dog Anxiety: What Dog Owners Need to Know | American Kennel Club