A loud unexpected clap of thunder is enough to make anyone jump, even your dog. In some dogs, this can become a fear or phobia of thunderstorms or loud noises in general. A phobia is known as an extreme, irrational fear. It can develop easier in some breeds, if there was a traumatic incident associated with an event, or if the animal didn’t have good experience associated with storms or noises at an early age. Phobias can develop in young animals and sometimes develop as the dog becomes older.
What does a dog with a thunderstorm phobia look like? Some dogs seek out their human for comfort, some hide under the bed, some pace, pant shake and drool. Some try to get out of the house and will scratch the floor, the walls, the door, or if outside will run away. Dogs can sense the changes in the weather that predict a storm approaching, so the behaviours can start before the actual thunder and lightning arrive.
If your dog has a thunderstorm phobia, what can you do? If your dog prefers to hide, have a place where s/he can go. Such as a kennel that is covered with a blanket to decrease sound and reduce the flashes of light from lightning. If they look for comfort from you, it is ok to sit with them, but don’t reinforce the behaviour by giving the dog excess attention. Provide “white noise” such as classical music or having the television on and close the drapes to lessen the light from lightning. Offer a food stuffed toy or chew to distract the dog and to make him/her associate the weather with something pleasant. Some dogs also respond to body wraps such as the Thundershirt or Thundercap.
Never punish your dog for their response to the noise phobia. It will just make their anxiety surrounding a storm worse.
If your dog has extreme responses to weather or noise, talk to your veterinarian. There are medications that can help and desensitization programs using recorded storms.
If you have any questions, give us a call at 506.622.2355.
Written by: Waterview Animal Hospital