Fear of loud noises, especially thunder and fireworks, is a common phobia in dogs. It’s usually displayed by hiding, whining, barking, pawing or even urination. Trying to help your dog cope with loud noises is important because the anxiety usually gets progressively more pronounced with age. A dog suffering from a fear of thunderstorms may begin to display anxious behavior before the thunder begins. Rain on the roof of the house, bright flashes of light or even the drop in air pressure before a storm may be enough to trigger anxiety. It is important not to punish your dog for being anxious, but equally important not to cuddle too much.
- Punishing your dog will just create more fear and anxiety because thunder will then be associated with both fear and punishment
- Cuddling or comforting your dog too much isn’t a good idea because it teaches your dog that anxious behavior is appropriate
Instead, first provide your dog with a safe place to seek refuge. Dog crates, under a bed or under a chair are common hiding places for a dog. Your dog chooses these places because he feels protected and the noise of thunder or fireworks is muffled. If your dog has not already picked out a place, provide one. Try leaving a few treats in a safe place to encourage your dog to go there.
Try desensitizing your dog to loud noises so the sound becomes normal. This is usually done by playing recorded thunder at a low volume and in short intervals while you monitor your dog’s behavior. Try to distract your dog while the noise is present by playing fetch or engaging in some sort of enjoyable activity. If your dog is too frightened to participate, you need to turn down the intensity of your thunder stimulus and try again later. This process is long and requires patience, but in the end your dog will be much more comfortable during a storm.
For help with further treating your dog’s anxiety, seek advice from your veterinarian.