The deafening thunder can be a little scary, even for an adult who knows it’s harmless, so your dog’s horror is understandable. But why exactly do thunderstorms send so many of our paw buddies into a tail spin?
Many dogs suffer from unexpected loud noises – a condition known as noise aversion or noise phobia in more severe cases – and sudden thunderbolts fall into this category. However, what distinguishes a howling siren or fireworks from a thunderstorm in a dog’s head is that dogs can actually tell that a thunderstorm is coming.
How National Geographic explains that not only can dogs see easily when the sky is dark and feel when the wind is coming, they can also sense the shift in air pressure that occurs before a storm. The fear of knowing loud noises can annoy your dog as much as the noises themselves.
Static electricity can also contribute to this fear, especially in dogs with long and / or thick hair. Tufts University veterinary behavioral scientist Nicholas Dodman, who also co-founded the Center for Canine Behavior Studies, reported National Geographic that a static blow when brushing metal can increase your dog̵
It is difficult to say why every dog despises thunderstorms. As Purina points out, one could simply be dropped from the routine by taking a break, while another might be most worried by lightning. In any case, there are ways to calm your stressed pet.
If your dog prefers to be in the bathroom during a storm, they may try to stay near smooth, static-free surfaces for fear of being shocked. It can be helpful to put them on in an antistatic jacket or to stroke them with antistatic dryer sheets.
You can also offer your puppy a safe haven where he will not notice the signs of a storm. Purina behavioral researcher Ragen TS McGowan suggests placing a blanket over the box to dampen noise. For dogs that don’t (or don’t like) boxes, a cozy room with drawn blinds and a machine with white noise can work instead.
It is also a good idea to consult your veterinarian. If your dog’s stress caused by thunderstorms is really causing problems, an anxiety prescription may be the best option.
[h/t National Geographic]