a small dog looking up

What to Do When Your Dog Is Scared of Thunder

Warmer weather brings thunderstorms and, in many cases, frightened dogs. According to one study, more than 40% of dogs are afraid of loud noises like thunder. Even if your dog seems to make it through summer storms unaffected, chances are loud thunder is leaving them feeling stressed. Keep reading to find out the signs that your dog is afraid of thunder and what you can do about it.

Signs Your Dog Is Scared of Thunder

For pet parents, it’s distressing to watch our fur family suffer out of fear. So when the loud booms and clashes of summer thunderstorms roll around, both you and your dog can be left feeling stressed and anxious.

As humans, we tend to expect the loud noises that come with storms. Yet even still, we may flinch at a sudden clap of thunder.

Our dogs, on the other hand, don’t understand what these loud noises are or where they’re coming from. In addition, our dogs’ hearing is much more sensitive than ours, making the thunder seem even more threatening.

Dog looking out rainy window
Each dog may react differently. But here are signs that your dog is scared of thunder:
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Destructive behavior
  • Cowering or hiding
  • Inappropriate peeing or pooping
  • Panting
  • Excessive Drooling
  • Flattened ears
  • Barking, crying, or whining
  • Clinginess
  • Pacing, restlessness, or hypervigilance
dog hiding under blanket

Some dogs may repeatedly lick their lips or yawn. On the surface, this subtle behavior appears to be run-of-the-mill. But in actuality, it's your pup trying their best to calm themselves down.

Sadly, some dogs may be so scared of thunder that they shut down completely and won’t react when their owners call them. Or they may try to physically escape the noise by running away. In fact, many shelters report an influx of rescues in days following a loud noise event, such as July 4th. So what can you do to alleviate your pup’s fears and keep them safe?

What to Do if Your Dog is Afraid of Thunder

Even with the best planning, it’s impossible to predict when the next big thunderstorm will hit. Take our friend Zuzu, for example.

One afternoon, a sudden downdraft with 90 mph winds began spewing branches and debris onto the family home. Zuzu’s dog mom, Pamela, recalls, “She ran upstairs to hide under the bed. I called her back down to hide in our tornado room where she clung to me (and peed on me). Since then, she’s terrified of the wind. I can’t protect her from all wind, but I can take reasonable measures to make her comfortable.”

We couldn’t agree more. Reasonable measures can go a long way to soothe a dog who is scared of thunder. Here are some simple steps you can take to calm your dog.

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Create a Zen Zone

Creating a “zen zone” for your dog is a pawsome way to help them de-stress from thunderstorms.

What is a zen zone? Simply put, it's a safe, cozy space that your dog finds comforting, especially during stressful times.

For example, some dogs regain their peace when in a room without a view, like Zuzu’s tornado room. A closet without windows, a powder room, or a laundry room would accomplish the same purpose.

Other anxious pups find refuge in their crates. If your dog willingly naps in their crate, chances are they’re willing to use it as their own zen zone.

Wherever you choose, be sure their safe space is equipped with an extra cozy bed where your dog can snuggle and burrow. We love these luxury beds, hand-crafted by Snoozer Pet Products.Include their favorite toys and some blankets that are covered in the family’s scent so that their zen zone smells and feels familiar. If using a crate, cover it with a blanket. If in a room, dim the lights and close the blinds.

puppy with toy

If your dog’s Zen Zone is a room or their crate, keep the door open so they don’t feel trapped and can come and go as they wish.

Some pet parents add a white noise machine or soft calming music to drown out the thunder and create a relaxing environment.

Try a ThunderShirt

ThunderShirts have been used by millions of pet parents to help their pets regain calm during stressful events, like thunderstorms. It works similarly to swaddling an infant. The anxiety vest applies gentle, constant pressure to your dog’s body. In essence, it’s like your dog is getting a calm, continuous hug.

Comfort Your Dog

It’s perfectly okay to comfort your dog when they are scared of thunder. Some have been told that doing so will only encourage their fearful behavior. But according to Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Lisa Radosta, it’s perfectly fine to soothe your dog by holding them or cuddling them, provided they’re seeking that kind of reassurance. If it doesn’t soothe your dog, don’t force it.
woman comforting senior dog

Visit a Veterinary Behaviorist

If your dog is exhibiting extreme symptoms due to being scared of thunder, or if you aren’t seeing any improvement, consider visiting a Veterinary Behaviorist.

These specialists have a wide range of experience with all sorts of troubling pet behavior. They’ll examine your dog and give expert advice on how to treat and manage your pup’s symptoms.

What NOT to Do if Your Dog Is Afraid of Thunder

Don’t scold or punish your dog – even if their anxiety has led to some destructive behavior like chewing your favorite shoes or clawing your furniture.

Raising your voice or scolding them will only make your dog more fearful.

If you know that storms are in the area, don’t let your dog outside. One unexpected clap of thunder could spook your dog, triggering panic and causing them to run away out of fear.

Don’t isolate your dog. Even if you’ve created a Zen Zone, leave other doors in the home open so your pup can go where they need for comfort.

FAQs About Dog Anxiety

  • What triggers dog anxiety? A host of things can trigger anxiety in dogs. For example, age-related conditions like dementia, not being socialized as a puppy, and past traumas from being abused, rehomed, or locked in a crate too long can all be triggers. In addition, genetics makes some dogs more prone to anxiety.
  • What breed of dog has the most anxiety? While fear and anxiety can affect any dog, some breeds tend to be more anxious than others. For example, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Huskies are commonly believed to be more anxious.
  • Is anxiety dangerous for dogs? Dogs who suffer from extreme fear and anxiety can be a danger to themselves and others. When panicked they may become destructive and harm themselves. Not to mention, poor emotional health can negatively affect your dog’s physical well-being.

The Final Woof

Fear and anxiety from loud thunder are common problems among dogs. But it doesn’t need to be a hopeless situation. Create a zen zone for your pup before the next big storms roll in and comfort them when they’re scared.
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