What is Thunderstorm Phobia? Thunderstorm phobia is a fear of thunderstorms. Thunderstorm phobia is very common in dogs. It is unclear what the exact causes are, but many dogs react to the loud noise of thunder, the flashes of lightning and even rain falling on the roof. Some dogs may begin to act fearful up to 30 minutes before a storm, possibly hearing thunder in the distance or reacting to a drop in barometric pressure. Dogs may also be reacting to the owner’s own fear of storms.
Signs of Thunderstorm Phobia: Dogs with a fear of thunderstorms show outward signs of anxiety: they may tremble, cower, hide, pant, whine, pace, become destructive or even aggressive.
How to Manage Thunderstorm Phobia:
What not to do:
Do not coddle, excessively talk to your dog in a soothing voice. This will only serve to reinforce the current behavior. It will show the dog that there is something to fear. Excessive attention and coddling will also positively reinforce by rewarding anxious behavior.
Do not punish the dogs: punishing the dog will serve no purpose other than to make the dog even more anxious.
What to do:
Distractions: Dogs with mild to moderate thunderstorm anxiety may be able to be distracted with fun activities such as playing with a ball or toys, chewing on a bone, or agility and obedience exercises.
Music therapy or other noise distractions: Many dogs will respond to relaxing music. Try Sprinks Travel Calm CD with soothing classical music and familiar sounds to calm an anxious dog during a storm. Some dogs will become more relaxed with other familiar noises on in the house such as the television or radio.
Nutraceuticals: Dogs with mild to moderate thunderstorm anxiety may benefit from a natural calming supplement such as our Sprinks Relax Formula with valerian root, lemon balm and L-theanine. These ingredients work to calm neurotransmitters in the brain.
Prescription Medications: Dogs with severe anxiety may require a short-acting prescription sedative or longer term management with an anti-anxiety medication such as fluoxitine.
Desensitization therapy: Desensitization therapy works by playing a recorded version of a thunderstorm at a very low volume while using positive reinforcement such as a treat or play, distraction techniques such as obedience or agility exercises. Over time, as the dog becomes less anxious, gradually increase the volume of the recording.