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Storm Phobia—Why Your Dog is Scared of Thunder and How You Can Help


The first clap of thunder and you just know—your faithful friend is going to be terrified.

Otherwise calm and well behaved; your dog may pant, pace, cling to you, hide from you or try to crawl behind the first large object they see.

Severely phobic dogs may destroy the house by chewing through drywall, carpets or even break windows.

Storm phobia in dogs is real and you can help. But how? This article will explain why your dog is scared of thunder and how you can help.

What is Storm Phobia?

Storm phobia or chronic fear of thunder is a common anxiety in dogs.

Experts believe that dogs are sensitive to barometric changes that happen just before a storm. Combined with suddenly dark skies, wind and just the noise of thunder itself can cause a fearful reaction.

Other experts point to static buildup in dog’s fur, which adds to the unpleasantness during a storm.

Some dogs are anxious around all loud or explosive everyday noises. Storm phobia goes deeper than that, making dogs more and more fearful with every storm that happens over the summer months.

Storm phobia usually develops in dogs between the ages of two and four and gradually gets worse with age.

There are several aspects of storms that can make your dog anxious:

  • Booms and cracks from thunder
  • Ominous dark skies
  • Feeling the storm approach if outside
  • Smell the storm coming

If your dog already has anxious behavior, such as separation anxiety, he or she may be more prone to storm phobia.

Fortunately there are behavioral therapies and environmental treatments you can try to ease your dog’s storm phobia. They key is to take action before the storm comes.

Storm Phobia Symptoms

Experts report that from 15 to 30 percent of dogs are affected by storm phobia.

The symptoms can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Chewing
  • Clinging
  • Hiding
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Howling
  • Shaking
  • Defecation
  • Destructive behavior

Tools and Tips for Calmness

Predict the Storm

Storms are reasonably predictable, thanks to your local weather forecast or radio warnings. Thankfully, most weather forecasters over-predict storms.

Most thunderstorms happen in the afternoon. Fewer storms happen in the evening or overnight.

If you can, make sure you are home with your dog if a storm is on the radar. If you cannot be home with your dog, consider a pet sitting service or good, trustworthy friend.

Keep Your Dog Inside

Dogs that are left outside during a thunderstorm are much more likely to become phobic during storms.

They are more likely to attempt to escape to find you or a way into the house. Not only can your dog cause damage, but also they may hurt themselves or even get lost.

Reward the Calm Not the Fear

Dog owners make the mistake of petting or consoling their dogs when they are anxious or having storm phobia.

Unfortunately, this encourages panic behavior such as whimpering, barking or climbing.

While you should not scold your dog for being scared, do not reward them either. This can encourage their behavior.

What you should do instead is practice getting your dog to calm down on command.

Get a leash that you only use inside and train your dog to settle at your feet and be calm.

Do this on a daily basis so that when a storm comes up, your dog will know what to do.

Storm Treats

Dogs with mild storm phobia may respond to simple methods to ease their anxiety.

Pair something your dog loves, like their favorite treat, with the early signs of a storm.

Continue to give the treat while the storm is going on. Distract your dog with their favorite toy, play fetch or other games and pet your dog as long as they are remaining calm.

Try to get them to ignore the storm and replace their fear with calm feelings.

The goal is to condition your dog to think of something he loves that happens when a storm comes up.

Instead of yipes, he’ll think yippee!

Safe Zone

Give your dog a safe place to escape the noise and scary parts of the storm.

This could be an open dog crate, a basement or interior room that blocks the sight and noise of the storm, or a bathroom with music playing.

Pay attention to where your dog goes during a storm and allow them access, if possible. This safe place is known as their den, and is their safe zone during a storm.

Believe it or not, a walk-in closet is ideal as a safe den during a storm. There are usually interior walls that block sound. Your clothes and shoes offer further sound barrier, plus your smell. If you can leave the door open, your closet may be your dog’s safe den.

In any safe zone, make sure that your dog can come and go freely, as confining your dog may increase their fear.

White Noise

Dogs have very sensitive ears, so giving them a white noise to focus on over the sounds of the storm can provide a good distraction.

Play a radio in your safe zone or add other noises to the den to distract your dog from the sounds of the storm.

Some dog owners have reported success when playing thunder recordings for their dog on a regular basis.

The idea is simple: exposing your dog to their fear in a calm setting desensitizes them to it when it happens in real life.

If you are going to try it, there are several collections available on CD or online.

Make sure your dog isn't alarmed by the recording by playing it at a low volume at first.

Increase the volume and exposure gradually, making sure your dog stays calm.

Wraps or Shirts

Some owners are singing the praises of pressure garments made for dogs, known as thunder shirts or thunder wraps.

Much like swaddling a baby, a snug-fitting wrap or shirt could have a calming effect on your dog, though scientific studies have not shown much in the way of proof that these garments work.

It could be more behavior oriented than anything else.

Much like our suggestion of an inside lead being used to train your dog to calm down, a thunder shirt or wrap may just be associated with calm behavior in your dog’s mind.

At any rate, these garments are inexpensive and worth a try.

Capes

Many dogs head for a bathtub, sink or toilet tank to hide in or behind when a storm comes up.

Experts theorize that dogs are seeking relief from an uncomfortable build up of static electricity in their fur.

Your dog may be experiencing painful shocks during a storm that you just do not notice. By seeking water, they are trying to ground themselves.

Enter the Storm Defender, which is a cape with an anti-static lining. Dogs who wear the Storm Defender seem to show less anxiety.

It's a low-cost solution and worth a try to see if it offers your dog some relief.

Medication

It is never a bad idea to consult your vet when your dog has a problem, even if it is behavior related and not a health issue.

There are several anti-anxiety medications available that can be prescribed for your dog.

Typically, a vet will only prescribe medication in severe cases, when dogs may hurt themselves because they are so scared.

Additionally, behavior therapy and desensitization to storms or loud noises must be given along with the medication.

Vets agree that changing the environment, giving behavior therapy and prescribing medication should all be practiced together.

Your vet can come up with a plan to help your dog if he or she is storm phobic.

Caution should be used with these or any other prescription drugs. Some are very strong sedatives, which get your dog over the crisis but the real phobia will come back without other treatment.

Perhaps we're biased, but we'd urge you to try all the other methods mentioned in this post before resorting to medication.

Massage

There are calming massage techniques that can be employed to de-stress your dog during a storm.

By concentrating on the major muscle groups in the forehead, cheek, neck and shoulders, a massage can calm your dog.

There is a great video available here that will explain the massage technique to try on your dog.

Using firm pressure with your fingertips, massage your dog using your index finger and thumb in small circles about one inch in diameter.

Focus on the neck and shoulders and speak soothing words to your dog while you massage.

Pheromones

Pheromones are chemical compounds excreted by dogs as a social response.

They are natural, odorless and cannot be seen or felt. Pheromones generate different responses depending on their intention.

Some pheromones include sex, alarm, food and calming. The calming pheromone has been synthetically produced for use in an electronic diffuser to calm dogs during a storm.

Pheromone diffusers work the same way that an air freshener diffuser works, plugging into the wall and creating a low level of heat to activate the pheromone liquid in the air.

By diffusing a low level of calming pheromone all the time, some dogs have been shown to be calmer during stressful times like storms.

Why not try using a diffuser alongside behavioral therapy.

CBD Hemp Oil Extract

New to the market but quickly gaining a reputation for anti-anxiety benefits in dogs is CBD Hemp Oil Extract.

A natural remedy, CBD hemp oil extract is easy to give your dog daily and provides a level of calm in any situation.

Along with behavioral therapy and some of the other tools mentioned here, CBD Hemp Oil Extract can be the difference that helps you avoid medication for your dog.

Our CBD hemp oil extract is specially formulated for dogs and comes from organically grown cannabis plants, containing no THC (the part of the hemp plant that makes people “high”).

Whatever brand of CBD Hemp Oil Extract you choose, make sure it is specially formulated to be safe for your dog.

CBD Hemp Oil Extract works directly on the nerve cells found in the brain and throughout the body.

Think of the nervous system like telephone lines, which can go haywire during a storm with static and stress.

CBD Hemp Oil Extract steps in to make the nerve messages clear again, lowering your dog’s anxiety level and calming them during a storm.

A full explanation on CBD Hemp Oil Extract and how your dog can benefit from daily treatment can be found in this free eBook.

This book will give you a full explanation of CBD Hemp Oil Extract, including how to make sure your dog is taking the right amount and formula.

You will also learn where CBD Hemp Oil Extract comes from and how to tell if you are getting the most potent, safest product for your dog.

Final Thoughts

Watching your best friend in terror during a storm is heart breaking.

But by employing some of the environmental, behavioral and natural therapies we've outlined above, your dog can get through their storm phobia without being destructive or risking their own health.

It's important to remember not to get upset with your dog when they are showing signs of storm phobia. Your dog learns their behavior from you, so staying calm yourself is important.

Show your dog that you know they are afraid, but do not fuss over them. Distract them from the storm with soothing music or white noise, let them move to a safe, calm environment set up just for them and don’t confine or punish them.

Try some of the new products on the market, along with behavioral therapy, to provide your dog with long lasting ways to deal with their storm phobia.

Want To Try Hemp Oil On Your Dog?

As you may know, Natural Pet Organics offers an organic, all natural hemp oil specially formulated for dogs. Our hemp is grown right here in the USA and we only use the highest quality ingredients.

If your dog suffers from anxiety and hates storms then click the button below and give our hemp oil a try.

Don't forget to share your results with us! We love hearing about all the success stories.

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