Dogs do not take well to sudden loud noises or bright flashing lights. So, it should not be a surprise that so many dogs suffer from astraphobia, an intense anxiety and fear of thunderstorms. But what is the real reason behind why dogs are scared of lightning and thunder?
Dogs are extremely sensitive creatures that can often sense the buildup of a coming thunderstorm. This is because they can sense the changes occurring to the barometric pressure and static electricity in the atmosphere. They can also hear the low-frequency rumblings of far-off thunder long before humans can. Thus, a dog’s anxiety will usually rise before the storm hits. She may start to whine or seek shelter in the corner of a room. Then, when the storm arrives with all its thunder and lightning, her anxiety and fear reach a fever pitch.
Another reason why dogs are afraid of thunder and lightning is that thunderstorms interfere with their usual routine. Dogs love consistency and when something happens that changes their routine, they naturally feel increased anxiety, which then gets exacerbated by the loud random booms of thunder and flashes of lightning.
How to Keep Your Dog Calm During a Thunderstorm
If your dog suffers from astraphobia, then there are a few things you can do to help keep her calm until after the storm passes. The first is to stay calm yourself. If you get scared when you hear loud thunder, then your dog will sense your fear and her anxiety will worsen. Stay calm and your dog will feel more reassured.
Before the storm season starts, it will also help if you create a safe space for your dog. This can be her crate, if she is crate trained, or any room in the house where you can create a comfortable spot just for her. Make sure you can close the blinds in that room, so your dog cannot see outside. This will help reduce the effect lightning might have on her.
Playing some music or putting on the television will help give your dog something else to focus on instead of the thunder. It won’t completely drown out the thunder, but the noise will certainly help prevent your dog’s hearing from being blasted by loud peals of thunder amid periods of quiet. Playing with her and giving her treats will also help distract her from the storm.
Another tip is to desensitize your dog to thunder by playing storm sounds quietly in the background while you play with her or give her treats. The more she is exposed to the sounds, the less likely she will have severe anxiety when the real thing happens.
Speaking with your veterinarian about your dog’s fear of thunder will also help. Your vet may be able to recommend alternative remedies to help curb your dog’s anxiety, such as wrapping your pet in a shirt or wrap or purchasing a product made for that purpose.
Practice Positive Reinforcement
Practicing positive reinforcement is essential for helping your dog cope with her fear of thunderstorms. Avoid scolding or punishing her for acting out during a storm. After all, her unwanted behavior is being caused by her fear, not disobedience. She simply can’t help it.
Ultimately, spending time with and teaching your dog new and positive associations is one of the best and most effective ways of helping her to overcome her fear of thunder and lightning. So, start employing the above strategies today and hopefully the next thunderstorm won’t cause your beloved dog such anxieties.