Many dogs are afraid of thunderstorms, lightning, and thunder. You can read here how you can help your dog during a thunderstorm and what you should do if you are surprised by a thunderstorm while taking a walk.
Many dogs are afraid of bad weather and storms, some even panic. On the one hand, this is due to the loud noises. Many dogs are very sensitive to noise, and lightning and thunder are also noises that can frighten dogs. On the other hand, dogs also feel the pressure drop during a thunderstorm. In combination with the darkening skies and strong gusts of wind, this can trigger stress, anxiety or even panic in dogs. In addition, dogs’ fur can become electrostatically charged during thunderstorms, which can also lead to fear.
Signs of fear and panic in dogs
To tell if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, you should pay attention to his body language. Signs of anxiety and stress in dogs are:
- laid back ears
- wide eyes
- lick the lips
- retracted rod
Some dogs panic during thunderstorms and storms. Signs that your dog is severely afraid or panicking about the thunderstorm include:
- loud barking
- strong shaking
- panicked search for a place to hide or escape
In a severe panic, dogs are often disoriented or try their best to find a way out of the situation. It happens again and again that dogs jump through glass doors or windows, for example, or injure themselves when trying to escape in panic.
If your dog shows signs of stress or panic during a thunderstorm, you should act and stand by your dog.
Dog is afraid of thunderstorms: how to help him
These 10 tips reveal how you can best help your dog with fear of thunderstorms and what are absolute no-gos in a thunderstorm:
1. Never punish!
If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, the number one rule is: never punish him for it. Not even if he breaks something out of fear. This is an absolute no go. Because in this way the dog only associates the thunderstorm with other negative experiences, which will not diminish the fear of future thunderstorms.
2. Positive association
Associate your dog’s thunderstorm with something positive. It is best to start with this when you are a puppy. From the very beginning, the dog associates storm, lightning and thunder with something good, for example a special treat, and not with fear.
3. Don’t leave them alone!
Very important: If your dog is afraid or panics during a thunderstorm, do not leave him alone under any circumstances! If you add the fear of being alone to the fear of the thunderstorm, you make things much worse for your dog. On the other hand, if you are with him and calm him down, you help him a lot. A panicking dog can also injure itself.
4. Retreat for the dog
If your dog is afraid of a thunderstorm, it is important to provide him with a place to retreat. At best, this is a quiet and dark place near you. For example, the place under a table or bed or in the bathroom (without a window) is suitable. You can put a blanket over your dog to keep it dark. Some dogs feel safest with their human, many seek out the bathroom. Or you can build a small den for your dog. It is best to let your dog decide where he feels safe. You can then make this place comfortable for him.
5. Close the view and ways to the outside
It is particularly important in bad weather that the dog cannot go outside. It is not uncommon for dogs to run away in panic during thunderstorms, injure themselves, run in front of a car or get lost. You should avoid that. Therefore, close all routes to the outside.
You should also close curtains, blinds, and shutters so that he cannot see outside. This calms the dog and also makes the loud noises a little quieter.
6. Distract the dog
If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, you can try to distract him. For example, play with him, preferably his favorite game. Some dogs also find music relaxing. If you know what music relaxes your dog, you can try to distract him with it.
Tip: Music or a switched-on television can also be used to drown out the loud storm noises.
7. The behavior of the dog owner
The behavior of the dog owner also plays an important role in the fear of thunderstorms in dogs. To help your dog, you should behave as follows:
Remain calm yourself, radiate calm and confidence to your dog. Feel free to talk to him or pet him. An absolute no-go is getting hectic yourself. Because if you are hectic and stressed yourself, you transfer this mood to the dog.
Otherwise behave normally. Don’t be overprotective. Then your dog will notice that something is wrong, or that something is “not normal”. However, the dog should perceive a thunderstorm as something normal, not as an exceptional situation.
One way to prevent or get rid of fear of thunderstorms in dogs is desensitization. Slowly get your dog used to the loud noises. Play the sounds of lightning and thunder over a period of several weeks, first quietly, then louder and louder. While the sounds are playing, play with, pet or feed your dog. In this way, the dog gets used to the loud sounds and associates them with something normal and even pleasant.
9. Home remedies
If your dog is indeed terrified of thunderstorms and will not be distracted or calmed down, you may consider giving them natural calming remedies such as Bach flowers. However, you should not just decide that yourself, but speak to a veterinarian or animal naturopath beforehand. Because dogs don’t tolerate everything that works for humans!
If no distraction or calming method works for your dog and he cannot get rid of his fear of thunderstorms, you should contact an expert (e.g. dog trainer or animal psychologist). Maybe he can take away your dog’s fear of thunderstorms.
10. Don’t go outside until it’s quiet again
You should not let your dog outside during a thunderstorm. Don’t take him outside until the storm has completely stopped and it’s calm again.
Surprised by a thunderstorm while walking the dog: what to do?
Going for a walk during a thunderstorm is not a good idea. But what to do if you get caught in a thunderstorm while walking the dog? Storm, lightning and thunder can start suddenly.
The general rule is: if you notice that a storm is brewing over you when you go for a walk, start walking back. This way you will probably get home or at your car before lightning can pose a threat.
Tip: Before starting a longer walk, always check the weather forecast, especially if there is a lot of thunderstorms at the moment. Of course, the forecasts are not always 100 percent reliable, but they definitely give you an idea of whether a long walk on the dog is a good idea or not.
If you are surprised by a storm with thunder and lightning while going for a walk, you should look for shelter for you and your dog. The following aspects are important:
- If you are out in the woods or park, look for a cabin or cottage where you can hide.
- In an open field, a hut is not a suitable hiding place, since that is the highest point there, unlike in the forest. Lightning usually strikes at the highest point. So avoid being the highest point!
- The best position: shorten, squat down, legs close together and heels lifted.
- Also, watch out for your dog. You might find a hollow in the ground or a park bench for him to hide under. Dogs often seek protection instinctively.
- Keep calm and make your dog feel safe, don’t let him run loose.
- Keep at least 10 meters away from trees. You should also avoid other high objects, such as power poles or lanterns, as this is where lightning is most likely to strike.
- Do not stay near water.
- In the car, you and your dog are well protected from the storm. Bridges or underpasses offer shelter.