Does your dog behave strangely during a thunderstorm, perhaps start shaking, barking, become hyperactive or seem terrified? Thunderstorms are a very common phobia in dogs which often develops early in life and worsens as the dogs get older.
The origin of this behaviour is fear towards the noise made by the thunder (we see a similar condition with fireworks). Lightning will not initially cause any response, however, in time many dogs associate the crack of thunder with the preceding flash of lightning and even the associated pre-storm weather conditions as they seem to sense the changes in atmospheric pressure leading up to a storm.
This means a storm-phobic dog will be anxious, restless and distressed, hours before a storm begins.
This can be a serious problem if your dogs howl constantly or panics and escape from the yard and disappear, often at risk of being hit by a car or becoming lost. (What about a microchip?)
What can we do?
There are several ways of helping your dog adapt to its fear.
- Some dogs will settle if they are brought into the house and left in a quiet room, or allowed to sit with the family.
- Some dogs behaviour is often so extreme that it is necessary to use sedatives or other calming medication. There are several newer treatments available now so please contact us for a consultation if your dog is one of these extreme panickers. The only downside with medication, apart from the widely variable success rate in different individuals, is you still need to be home to give it before the storm starts which is not always easy to predict. However regular daily non-drowsy medication options are available to decrease the overall sensitivity to storms.
- It is possible in some cases to desensitize dogs using a recording of a thunderstorm. This is done by exposing the dog to gradual increases in volume of the recording and by using rewards for being relaxed and calm.