When lightning strikes and thunder rolls, your dogs get into a frenzy, running into hiding at the crack of thunder. This behavior has made many dog owners curious as to why this happens to their pets.

Dogs and thunderstorms are not the best of friends, and they show that by barking, shaking or whimpering during a thunderstorm. 

Studying how and why your dog reacts to thunder storms is crucial to helping them go through canine storm anxiety. 

In this article, we will unravel the mystery behind why your dog is scared of thunder, ways to prevent, calm or ease your dog’s canine storm anxiety during a thunderstorm.

The Canine Hearing Range

Dogs have a hearing range of about 45,000 to 65,000 Hertz compared to that of humans which averages at a lower value of 20,000 Hertz. That makes the sound of a thunderstorm three times louder for dogs than for humans. 

The sound of that could be really scary you know, this shocking sound could lead to canine storm anxiety which could make them fret and whine. 

As a concerned dog owner, you should take this into consideration when next you let your pet play around fire crackers and loud noises.

The Element of Surprise

Dogs just like babies have instinctive startle reflexes. This reflex is usually triggered by loud noises or rapid movement of light and objects. A thunderstorm is a good example of what could cause such a reflex.

The sudden and unexpected crack of thunder is capable of waking a sleeping dog, causing fright and anxiety in your dog. Be it a loud noise, rapid movement or a rapid touch is enough to make your furry friend furious or scared.

Sensory Overload

If your dog has experienced storm related stimuli like thunderstorms, there is a chance your pet will also have a phobia for similar sounds like lightning, flashing lights, a fall in barometric pressure and even low rustling sounds from dry leaves.

If your pet is constantly exposed to loud noises from different sources, there is a risk of sensory overload which might lead to severe storm anxiety symptoms like whining and trembling.

When your dog experiences a combination of these loud noises from different sources, it becomes conditioned to overreact even to the smell of rainfall or a falling tree.

This creates an unhealthy condition in your dog, making your pet unnecessarily alert or fearful of things that are not harmful or pose a threat.

Past Trauma or Negative Experiences

Interestingly, dogs remember things and faces based on smell, sight and hearing. They have an associative memory which helps them remember things based on past experiences.

How they felt about what they heard or smelt will tell if they should avoid such scenarios in the future. If your dog already has a phobia for loud sounds, a thunderstorm will exacerbate its fear and panic.

Natural Instinct and Perceived Threats

Every animal has an instinct to run for safety if they perceive any threat around. It is not unusual for a dog to be scared of thunder.

The loud crack of thunder is enough to scare anyone especially when taken unaware. To dogs, a thunderstorm seems like a threat.

Most times, your pet may decide to stand up to the thunderstorm by barking to wade it off. Other dogs will whimper into your hands for safety.

There are also certain breeds of dog that are genetically more prone to canine storm anxiety than others. 

Herding dogs and hounds are a good example such as Collies and beagles while breeds like the Golden retriever are known to show no anxiety during thunderstorms.

What to look out for

There are certain signs to look out for to know when your dog develops storm anxiety. Most of the time, these signs are glaring and will always call to your attention. They include:

  1. Barking: During a thunderstorm, you might observe your dog barking after the crack of thunder or when he sees dark clouds gathering
  2. Trying to Hide: Some dog breeds do not waste time to take cover during a thunderstorm. This behavior shows your dog is afraid of thunderstorms.
  3. Vocalizing: During a thunderstorm, you might notice your dog running to you, whimpering and whining. They do this because they are scared and need comfort from you.
  4. Shaking: Shaking and trembling are not unusual in a dog with storm anxiety. Usually, dogs will tremble if they feel they will get hurt. If your dog trembles during a thunderstorm, there is every likelihood he thinks he will get hurt from the thunderstorm.
  5. Ear back: When your dog has its ears backward during a thunderstorm, it’s a sign your dog is afraid or submissive due to the loud sound coming from the thunderstorm.
  6. Restless: This is easy to identify, you will notice your dog pacing nonstop during a thunderstorm. This signifies that your furry friend is not having a good time with it.
  7. Destructive behavior: Pawing and self injury are signs to look out for in your dog during a thunderstorm. Make sure to remove all self inflicting objects around your dog during a thunderstorm.
Sad Golden Lab Laying Down Alone at home

Helping Your Dog Cope

Helping your furry friend overcome or cope with storm anxiety will require some form of commitment. 

There are methods you can use to calm your dog during a thunderstorm and reassure them of their safety, they include:

  • Petting and talking to your dog: During thunderstorms, you can comfort your dog by petting, cuddling and saying pleasant words that he loves. This will go a long way to give your dog reassurance of safety.
  • Use Calm Music: The best time to play your dog’s favorite song is during a thunderstorm. Music is soothing to the soul, it will help your dog stay calm and feel at peace.
  • Anxiety Wrap and Snug Collars: Who doesn’t like a big tight hug during a storm, an anxiety vest or snug garments will give your dog a feeling of being hugged. This will help reduce the stress of storm anxiety.
  • Create a Safe Place: For a dog, a safe place is a place where treats are given as rewards or a place where he is petted and hugged. This can be anywhere in the house like a fancy dog cage in a hideout or a crate. It should also contain a thunder shirt for comfort so that your dog can easily retreat to this safe place if it needs to get away from the thunderstorm.
  • Desensitization: The best results with desensitization therapy are achieved in winter. You can alleviate your dog’s storm anxiety by playing recordings of thunderstorms at very low volume while offering a treat or playing a game with your dog. Gradually increase the volume and watch the reaction of your dog, if you notice anxiety building up then stop till your dog overcomes its fears. If this is done consistently over a couple of months, your dog’s fear of thunderstorms will be reduced greatly, running to you for a treat whenever there is a storm instead of going into hiding.

Tips and Tricks

To give your dog a sense of security during a thunderstorm, there are some DIY methods you can adopt such as:

  • Homemade Snug Garment: An old piece of fabric could serve for this, it could be an old towel or coat. An ideal snug garment should cover the chest area, back and belly of your dog, making room for the forelimbs to pass through. Make sure the garment is not too tight in order not to restrict breathing. 
  • Games and Fun: Allowing your dog to play its favorite games with its favorite toys will go a long way to help reduce anxiety. 
  • Use Mutt Muffs: You might have a mutt muff lying around that your dog can take advantage of during a thunderstorm. Put a mutt muff on the ears of your dog to block off sounds from the thunderstorm, making sure it’s not too tight.
  • Massage Therapy: This is a no brainer method to help your dog go through canine storm anxiety. Comfort your dog by massaging its ear base and lower abdomen.

Professional Interventions

Your dog’s storm anxiety should be managed or controlled with the aforementioned methods. Canine anxiety could lead to other conditions such as seizures if severe. 

If you think your dog might be having a seizure due to so much trembling and shock, please seek the help of a Veterinarian.

Your Vet may administer some medication to help calm your dog but there are alternative prescriptions you can use at home such as; melatonin, pheromone diffusers and aromatherapy. 

These alternative remedies should also be used under the direction of a Veterinarian depending on the severity to avoid adverse effects.


Dogs and thunderstorms may not be the best of friends, but they could get all the care and comfort they need from you during a thunderstorm. The smell of rain, and the sudden loud sound of a thunder crack can make a dog fret and tremble. Make sure to stay close to your furry friend during a thunderstorm so you can comfort and give it a sense of security.

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