Why are some dogs afraid of thunder?

Dog’s ears come in all shapes and sizes, whether they are floppy, folded, small, or large their ears all perform the same purpose. They are a funnel for sound. Dogs have roughly 18 different muscles that help their ears move to detect where a sound is coming from. This allows them to be able to hear frequencies we cannot. In fact, what we can hear at 20 feet, dogs can hear at 80 feet. So, imagine the intensity of what they hear when there is a clap of thunder or someone sets off firecrackers? It’s no wonder some dogs are terrified of loud noises.

Right now we are smack dab in the middle of storm season as well as celebrations involving fireworks. While we can’t control the weather or the neighbors out back setting off firecrackers, there are a few things we can do to comfort our pets.

Create a safe place. Some dogs retreat to a particular spot when they are frightened. It may be a closet, under your bed, or behind the couch. The best thing to do is to give them access to the area that they feel the safest.

Distraction. As soon as you notice your dog is starting to become anxious, try to distract them by engaging them in an activity they really enjoy. Pull out their favorite toy, play fetch or practice some commands they know. Reward your pup with treats and praise for paying attention. Even though it is a natural reaction to want to console your pet if they are whimpering and clinging to you, do not console them or give them treats. Doing so will confuse your pet and make them think you are rewarding them for their behavior.

Try a Thundershirt. These snug-fitting shirts are designed to calm anxious dogs by applying gentle, constant pressure. Some pet owners notice a dramatic decrease in their dog’s anxiety level while wearing them.

Desensitize your dog to the sounds of storms. Play a CD of thunder recordings on low-level volume while you play with your dog. Gradually increase the sound over the course of several months. The goal is to get your pet used to the sound of thunderstorms.

Reduce or block noise level: Play some music, run a fan, or turn up the TV. Creating some “white noise” will help block out some of the fear-inducing noise.

If none of these techniques help calm your dog’s nerves, consult your veterinarian. They may be able to provide medication to help reduce your dog’s anxiety. Do not give your pup any over-the-counter or prescription medication without speaking to your veterinarian first.

Fear of thunderstorms, fireworks, and other loud noises are a common problem in dogs. Although there is no guarantee the phobia can be completely resolved, using the techniques listed above may help ease some of their anxiety.