British weather. People joke we’re obsessed with it, but when it affects our dog’s behaviour, why shouldn’t we be? Autumn and winter are usually the stormiest UK seasons. Strong winds, rain and snow can all appear – not pleasant to walk in, but also a bit unsettling. And with the warmer weather of spring and summer also bringing thunderstorms, it can feel like there’s no escape. If your dog is scared of thunder or the wilder weather, I’ve got some tips to help keep them calm.
Why does my dog get scared during a storm or thunder?
A lot of dogs are afraid of loud noises, especially unpredictable ones such as thunder or fireworks. This causes them fear, stress and anxiety, and as a owner, it can be distressing to watch them suffer every time the weather turns stormy.
Without having been habituated to loud and unpredictable noises during the unique developmental period in their puppyhood when new things are accepted as being ‘a normal part of life’ and nothing to be afraid of or worried by, many dogs can grow up to suffer from noise phobia.
While we know what thunder is, and that it isn’t something dangerous or terrifying, our dogs don’t. All they know is it’s loud, unexpected and scary.
Don’t forget, your dog’s ears are amazing! They can hear at a much greater distance than we can, so it could sound louder and closer to them. That goes for rain pummeling the roof and fence panels wobbling in the wind too.
For something that produces a strong emotional response, such as fear, won’t habituate, it will sensitise. In other words, they won’t get used to it, they’ll just get more scared and worried about it every time it happens.
It’s not just the noise either. The air pressure changes before a storm, and because our dogs are much more sensitive to these changes than we are, they can detect them early. This means they begin to get stressed as they know what’s coming – often long before we do.
What are the signs my dog is scared of thunder or storms?
When your dog is showing symptoms of thunder or storm fears, they can show a variety of symptoms: