Helping your dog during a storm

April 28, 2018

Loud noises can frighten some dogs. If this is the case for your furry friend, you should be ready to help him in a storm to overcome his fear of thunder and lightning. We’ll tell you how.

Thunderstorms may stress dogs out

According to a study done by experts at the University of Pennsylvania and published in Applied Animal Behavior Sciencebetween 15 and 30% of dogs exhibit stress due to their fear of thunder and lightning.

For that reason, they release 200% more cortisol as a response to the stress. Among the different kinds reactions of dogs during a thunderstorm, we have:

A puppy and a flower.

  • Shaking
  • Hiding their tail between their legs
  • Howling
  • Hiding in a corner or underneath the bed
  • Chewing on the furniture or other things

The best way to help a dog that is scared of thunderstorms is to stay calm and try to lower his anxiety with games and other positive experiences.

Why some dogs are scared of thunder and lightning

But why do our furry friends react this way to loud noises like storms? Everything seems to indicate that fear has enabled dogs throughout their evolution to escape from danger. Thus, the state of alarm leads them to urgently seek refuge.

But we must also not forget that dogs’ developed sense of hearing amplifies their fear, since they perceive noises with much more intensity than humans, including thunder. That’s why they can also tell a storm is approaching long before we can.

What you can do to help your furry friend in a storm

If a thunderstorm is coming, the best thing that you can do to help your dog is:

  • Stay calm so you will be able help your four-legged friend as much as possible with his fear.
  • Try to prevent or decrease your dog’s anxiety. For example, try distracting him and connecting the situation with positive experiences, such as games.
  • Don’t leave him outside of the house, regardless of if there is some shelter. Make him come in and find a place where he won’t be able to hear the noise as much.

Other ways to calm your dog down when there is thunder and lightning

  • Turn on the radio for some soothing instrumental music.
  • Give them anti-stress pheromones. These synthetic substances emulate those used by female dogs to calm down their puppies. But always ask a veterinarian.
  • Try desensitization. It’s a technique that you can learn to help your dog gradually get used to the scary sound of a storm.

Don’t forget to check the weather

A scared dog during a storm wearing a vest.

A lot of dogs are scared of storms. In fact, 35% of visits to the Clinical Ethology Service of the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Zaragoza are related to phobias, including a fear of storms.

So don’t dismiss the issue, and if your dog is part of that percentage, it’s best to be aware of the weather forecast. Ideally, the dog should not be alone during a thunderstorm. So if  you can’t be with him, ask a friend or relative nearby to be with him and help him as much as possible.

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