Do you dread thunderstorms and the rainy season? And is it because your dog freaks out and barks nonstop at thunder?
Have you ever wondered why dogs do this?
How do we go about comforting them? Are there ways to help? Plus, let them know there’s no need to worry about thunder?
This article has the answers to these questions!
Read on and you’ll also:
- Know how you should act during a thunderstorm.
- Learn about your dog’s mental health (and a little science).
- 7 reasons why your dog barks at thunder every time it rains.
- Discover ways to console your dog when he’s reacting to loud sounds.
Table of contents
Why does my dog bark at thunder?
Dogs bark at thunder because they can sense environmental changes. The sound of thunder may also induce fear and stress in dogs. When it’s storming, dogs may not be in a comfortable environment, so they may feel unsafe. How you react during thunderstorms is also a factor in why dogs bark at thunder.
Let me elaborate:
Dogs can sense the dropping of barometric pressure (air pressure in the atmosphere). When this happens, storms take place, leading to the possibility of a thunderstorm.
Thus, thunder – a combination of millions of shockwaves. This is also what’s also responsible for the booming/rumbling sound.
Plenty of dogs are known to hate loud noises. Their sensitivity to environmental changes causes a variety of reactions.
Fear is their initial reaction especially when they don’t know where the sound is coming from. They can sense thunder even before humans can hear it.
7 reasons why your dog barks at thunder
#1: “What are all these changes?”
Can your dog predict the weather? Can they smell the rain? Do they sense something humans don’t?
The short answer: yes.
The long answer: dogs are sensitive to environmental changes. One of those things being the change in air pressure in the atmosphere, a.k.a. the dropping of barometric pressure.
As mentioned before, this activity leads to storms, often leading to thunderstorms. Since dogs can sense this phenomenon miles away before it occurs, they react right away.
Combine this with the gusts of wind and the skies darkening, and most dogs can’t help but react a certain way. Perfectly understandable because even some of us humans find thunder frightening, no?
#2: “Zip zip zippity zapping me?!”
Know that sudden zap when you touch a doorknob or another person?
That’s what this is. Sparks can literally fly because both you and your pet can feel them.
Low humidity and dry air is the cause of static electricity.
This is a much more frequent problem during winter because the air is cold and dry.
You also use artificial heat (indoor heating) to keep you warm, removing moisture from the air.
As a result, you may notice that your dog’s fur stands on end sometimes or cling to your hand when you stroke it. Small electrical charge buildups are responsible for this.
Imagine your dog constantly feeling that tingling through his fur. Not so comfortable, is it?
#3: “It’s too noisy! I’m scared!”
Whenever we hear a loud noise out of nowhere, don’t we often go, “What the heck was that?!”
Let me tell you: most dogs react the same way.
Canine noise aversion is one of which that sends dogs:
These are all due to a sudden burst of sounds. It’s a response to sounds within the environment fueled by fear or anxiety.
They’re unsure where these noises are coming from so they get distressed and feel unsafe.
Dogs’ ears are far more sensitive than ours and they can hear sounds that are not even loud enough for human ears.
So when there’s thunder coming or is already ringing, they can hear it before we can. They might start growling and progress into full-on barking once the sound is loud enough that we hear it.
#4: “If other dogs do it, I will too”
This only applies if you have other dogs in the house, but it truly is a thing. This is connected to animal culture.
Dogs are like children; they see something others do, they pick it up and do it themselves.
If one dog barks, there is a huge possibility that the other will too. It’s curious and clueless what the deal is, so it does the same as the other.
So if one of your dogs has a fear of noise and the other/s doesn’t, they will most likely learn to fear it too.
Note: This is not limited to thunderstorms.
#5: “This is so stressful. Is this something I should get used to?”
This is a no-brainer: dogs get stressed too.
Something that dog parents need to address is their dog’s mental health. While this seems like a far-fetched reason linked to why your dog barks at thunder, trust me, it’s a factor.
Stress-induced surroundings lead to a higher level of stress. Couple that up with loud noises, what do we get?
Anxiety. Dogs responding with fear to uncertainty.
When a noise bothers dogs over and over, they become sensitized. They don’t learn to get used to it or just ignore it. It will worsen over time.
Some dog parents easily think that their dogs can take these temporary scares. Obviously, thunderstorms are not going to be an everyday thing. But hoping that your dog will get over things like this is counterproductive.
#6: “Am I really home?”
Where does your dog stay? Do you leave it outside even during storms?
The feeling of safety is essential, especially in the cold months. Not just the feeling, but the true definition of it.
If you let your dog stay outside, then you should know without a doubt that that’s one reason why.
The sound of thunder in an open space with barely anywhere to hide and the agitation that brings. Not to mention how cold it is and the feeling of being unsafe along with other uncertainties.
Getting wet, too. They dry off way slower than us humans. And who likes staying wet, anyway?
#7: “But my human’s scared too…”
Remember: Dogs can sense our emotions.
Dogs can combine what they see and what they hear to determine if their human is happy or angry. Yes, both visually and vocally.
So how do you act during thunderstorms? Do you get frantic? Restless? Can’t keep your bum sat?
There’s nothing wrong with that, but know that how you are during these times affects how your dog is as well.
5 tips on how to get your dog to stop barking at thunder
#1: Identify possible phobia triggers
What’s triggering your dog? Find those triggers.
Your main goal is to help your dog during thunderstorms, so knowing what these triggers are is a big step.
Noise phobia is a thing in dogs that can develop at any age and any breed. It’s an excessive fear, hence phobia, that’s irrational and intense.
Observe your dog and find out if it’s just thunder and loud sounds that he’s afraid of, or even doors squeaking.
Were they always like this? What other sounds provoke them? When does it happen?
Knowing these will help determine the whats and whys of your dog’s mental state.
#2: Check their environment
Refrain from placing your dog in an environment that often creates loud noises. As mentioned before, this causes them stress.
If your dog stays outside during the day, provide them a safe haven in the form of a dog house. If they’ve chosen their own spot, enhance it.
Storm-proof their shelter and leave them with food and toys that will last a while. It’d be great if you could check them from time to time.
The most preferred setup is to have your dog stay indoors. It’s the safest place for them.
Get them a dog bed or a crate. If it’s a crate, leave the door open because it might injure itself trying to escape. Guaranteed if your dog’s fear is so severe that he panics to get away.
Note that there will be no moisture in the air during winter because you’ll be using indoor heating. Reduce static electricity in your dog’s fur with the use of a humidifier.
Warning: Avoid using essential oils in humidifiers because some are toxic to dogs. Before attempting to use any type of essential oil in your dog’s surroundings, consult with your vet.
Bear in mind that having your dog indoors is the best thing to do because it’s the humane thing to do.
To some, that’s up for debate. Especially with dogs that have behavioral problems.
But how did they turn out that way?
Dogs arguably require more work to take care of than human children. So be responsible and educate yourself so you can have your dog behave accordingly.
Read this article to know more: 9 must-read reasons why your dog is suddenly being destructive
#3: Comfort and condition them
Do you shrug off instances like this? Do you wait for your dog to just “get over it”?
News flash: Dogs aren’t wired that way.
Help your dog know that these startling sounds have no consequence or meaning. Do this by distracting your dog before it has a chance to get upset about a noise.
Help your dog during thunderstorms and associate thunder with good things by:
Grab the opportunity to train your dog not to be scared of loud noises early. Condition him if he’s still a puppy.
You can do this with older dogs too, but you need more patience especially if it’s grown fearful of noises.
This will be more effective with a helper. Have someone drop something, a book, from a good distance while you play with your dog.
Stay calm and cheerful even if he startles at first – that’s normal. Give him treats and he’ll eventually learn that it’s nothing to be scared of or worried about.
Opt to have the sound of the object dropping louder gradually as he grows less affected by the noise.
Adding more sound in the presence of thunder may seem disadvantageous. But playing calming music will also help your dog relax.
Not in tune with your dog’s personality and behavior? Get to work.
#4: Dog thunder jackets and earmuffs are a thing
These are also known as anxiety vests. The point of these tools is to provide dogs pressure and warmth to feel secure.
Dogs have the desire to be close to you when they’re frightened. These vests are also said to give a soothing, swaddling effect, therefore putting the dog at ease.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is different from hereditary hearing loss in one very important way… It can be reduced, or prevented altogether.” – Mutt Muffs
As we already know by now, a dog’s hearing is their second keenest sense next to smell, and both should be protected.
These muffs are designed to protect your dog’s ears, especially in loud environments. So this will be effective in muffling storm noises as well.
It may also help with anxiety as well, which is very good for dogs that bark and tremble at the sound of thunder.
It’s important to note that these muffs only provide passive sound reduction. Your dog will still be able to hear since these will not eliminate sound.
#TheMoreYouKnow: Military dogs are prone to hearing loss. That’s why the U.S. Army is onto something – developing new technology to make ear protection for the good-est boys.
With all that said, you can imagine how these gizmos can help our furry best friends. If you believe these can help your dog during thunderstorms, try it.
*For the love of baby Jesus, please… Do not substitute cotton balls for any of the ear tools mentioned above for your dogs.
#5: Have them checked
Have you tried every possible thing that you think could help when your dog barks at thunder? Do you think this is way more serious than what it appears to be?
Your vet is the only one who can truly tell you the raw mental state of your dog. Tell him what you’ve gathered from doing tip #1.
I’m no vet, but if your dog’s suffering from severe phobia and/or anxiety, medication will be prescribed. Follow your vet’s advice closely.