- Is your dog afraid of thunder?
- Is your dog afraid of lightning?
- Is your dog afraid of storms?
- Is your dog afraid of fireworks?
Does your dog bark or whine when it thunders? Run around like a wild dog or pace during storms? Hide during lightning storms? Salivate excessively? Cower, tremble, shake, or try to climb on your lap during any type of rain storm or fireworks?
If so, then your dog is experiencing what is commonly referred to as thunderstorm anxiety, also known in general as noise anxiety. But the good news is you are not alone. It is estimated there are around 10 million pets who suffer from this problem and their owners are actively seeking solutions to help their scared companions.
Should you worry if your dog gets scared from thunder, lightning, storms, and fireworks? While most reactions are typically mild (such as cowering or pacing), in extreme cases it can actually lead to injury to your dog. Some dogs with severe noise anxiety have jumped through plate glass trying to escape, dig at walls, or chew and scratch (dog itching is actually a very common anxiety reaction, it is a nervous reaction to the stress) themselves raw, sometimes developing hot spots on dogs skin. There has not been enough research to explain why dogs get this type of severe anxiety, but it is very real. It usually starts out very mild, and if the wrong type of reinforcement is presented during the storm, the situation can get worse with every passing storm.
Dog Noise Anxiety – How Bad Is It?
For some dogs, the noise anxiety is so bad that they try to escape – by breaking through windows and clawing at walls. There is no rationality going on here in the dog’s mind. The only thing they are thinking about is survival – be that from escaping or hiding. Now, this is the extreme – but it just goes to show that it is a very SERIOUS problem.
Hopefully, your dog is not at that extreme, but that doesn’t mean they are not in pain. Think about how you feel when you are truly scared.
Noise Anxiety in Dogs is Very Stressful
A dog is not necessarily born with thunderstorm anxiety. As a matter of fact, it can develop at just about any time in a dog’s life, and chances increase as your dog gets older. So even if your dog has been fine for years, there may come a time, when out of the blue, your dog is now scared of thunderstorms!
And it’s more than just your dog acting crazy – it is VERY STRESSFUL for your dog. And being under stress like that is unhealthy for your dog and can lead to other problems, both physical and psychological.
But don’t try to reassure your dog by coddling them!! This only reinforces their thinking that something is wrong and they should be afraid. Learn about the different dog calming products and techniques available to help your dog overcome their fear.
Dog Afraid of Thunder, Lightning, & Storms
Your dog’s noise anxiety comes from the sound and vibrations caused by the thunder, the light from the lightning, the sound of the rain hitting the roof, house, and ground, and/or the pressure changes that come with a storm.
If your dog is afraid of thunder, it may not be only the noise but the vibrations that are felt when the thunder happens close to home. Remember, animals are much more sensitive to vibrations than humans are – which is why they tend to know when bad weather is coming much sooner than people.
With lightning, dogs are not alone. Many humans are also very scared of the sudden brightness of lightning. If your dog is afraid of lightning, then don’t be surprised if they also show anxiety symptoms with flashes from cameras.
Storms, in general, have many subtle properties that humans don’t pick up, but animals, like our pets, do. These include pressure changes (which tends to affect dogs with arthritis) and vibrations, which are clues to animals that they need to be aware of approaching danger.
Fireworks and Dogs: Not A Good Combination
Fireworks and dogs are another large category of noise anxiety for dogs, that mimic a lot of the thunderstorm problems. The loud noise, vibrations, and bright lights are all very similar to storms, with the exception of pressure changes.
Either your dog is responding to the vibrations, or relating something bad or scary that happened to them when firecrackers were set off some time in the past. Either way, some sort of conditioning is going to be required to help your dog overcome his phobia.
Treatments for Noise Anxiety
Below are two of the most common non-medicated ways to help your dog deal with noise anxiety.
A great way to help your pet deal with noise/thunderstorm/lightning anxiety is by using a dog pressure wrap, such as the thunder shirt. These pressure wraps act almost like how swaddling helps calm a baby, except that a dog’s legs are not contained. The pressure wrap provides gentle, reassuring pressure around your pet’s chest, and this provides the calming feeling that an infant feels when swaddled. Swaddling dogs with storm anxiety has proven to be a very effective treatment in reducing the anxiety.
This is a great method to try before trying any drugs, and will be less expensive as well. The pressure wraps have been known to work, in some cases, the first time, while others take a couple of times wearing them. Overall, these pressure wraps boast around a 85% success rate with dog noise anxiety. Check out the thunder shirts for dogs reviews for more information.
Behavior modification is another method to help dogs deal with noise anxiety, but this takes time to see any difference. You will need to essentially train your dog that the noise is not something to be afraid of. This is not done over night, but over a period of time. The following website has good detail in behavior modification training for dog anxiety problems.
Refer to Dog Anxiety Treatmentfor other ways to deals with dog anxiety issues.