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Why Is My Dog Afraid Of Thunder?

With the weather forecasted for today this seems like a good subject to talk about. While you won’t be able to fix any of this quickly before thunderstorms possibly get here today, it’s still a good thing to understand.

Why is my dog afraid of thunder? There are a few theories on this. But first, many dogs experience this fear. According to statistics 93% of dogs with some type of noise phobia are afraid of thunder, or something similarly loud like fireworks.

In fact, research in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior said noise phobias or noise sensitivities are one of the top 3 common anxieties in dogs. Thus, there are many dog owners looking for ways for their dog to cope with those big, bad and LOUD thunderstorms.

There are certain behaviors which tell us that dogs are afraid of thunder/loud noises. Here are some of them:

-barking or whining

-becoming very aware of surroundings

-being clingy


-destroying things like furniture, toys, crates etc

-lip licking


-hiding under furniture

-pacing or panting

-trying to run away (keep them on a leash!)

No one wants to see their dog in this state. Often, pet owners are at a loss as to what to do. It’s not like you can just turn the thunderstorm off.

Some experts believe that dogs fear thunder because they do not understand what it is. Dogs hear this loud noise and perceive it as something threatening. All the dog knows is that there is a LOUD, booming noise, and it’s typically not something they hear often. Another theory, that still needs more testing, is that dogs become statically charged when there’s a thunderstorm.

Nicholas Dogman, a veterinarian at Tufts University, has written an article “Thunderstorm Phobia In Dogs” in Psychology Today. According to Rodman his theory came about from hearing stories of dogs going to the bathtub or sink or other place they could ground themselves when a thunderstorm happened. Also, he has said that some pet owners have told him they get an electric shock when they touch their dog during a thunderstorm.

Regardless of whether it’s fear from not understanding or electrical shock we need to be careful about how we try to soothe our dogs. Talking to your dog in a baby voice can sometimes encourage your dog’s fear as he may sense insecurity in your voice. Instead consider having some background noise for your dog. Consider turning on the radio or TV for them. Or try playing with your dog to distract him from the outside noise.

You can also work on things to help your dog be less sensitive to thunderstorms during nice weather. There are many YouTube videos that you can play to help get your dog get used to these noises. However, put it on a very low audio of a storm. Start with it not audible to you and gauge how your dog behaves. Don’t move on to anything louder until they appear relaxed and comfy.

Once your dog is desensitized to a the sounds of a thunderstorm you can move on to the next phase of counterconditioning. The aim of counterconditioning is to repeatedly present the same stimuli, in this case a sound, but in association with an activity that the dog is known to enjoy, such as eating or playing.

Getting your dog over the fear of thunderstorms isn’t easy nor does it happen overnight. However, taking the time to try and desensitize your dog is better than having an unhappy and scared dog.

Cotten’s Sunset Kennels offers dog boarding along with Basic Obedience and Advanced Off-Leash Training Classes. Give us a call today at 231-845-0550. When only the best will do!


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