After a long and cold day, you and your dog snuggle up just before bed. The weather outside starts to change and it begins to rain. You don’t think much of it until you notice a flash outside your window. There may be a thunderstorm coming your way. Soon enough the thunder rolls and echoes outside and your dog begins to panic. She begins running in circles and burrows her head underneath a pile of blankets beneath your desk in your office. You are concerned and she is scared. Understanding why thunderstorms have a negative effect on your dog can help you better care for them in times of need.
The Root of the Behavior
As humans, thunderstorms can be quite intriguing. Children love to count the time between the lightning and the thunder and they love to watch and hear the sounds and bright flashes in the sky. Yet, dogs aren't as complex with understanding what thunderstorms are all about as they can come out of nowhere according to your dog. A large majority of dogs have anxiety and anything that may trigger their anxiety is something that dogs will have a negative reaction to. Thunderstorms are noisy as we all know. That is one of the reasons dogs do not like them. The noise is upsetting to their bodies as it is loud, unknown, and chaotic. Yet, the noise is just a small factor as to why dogs don't like thunderstorms.
The main reason why dogs do not like thunderstorms has to do with the static electricity. The static electricity makes dogs feel extremely uncomfortable. It moves through their fur, and can make dogs feel unsafe. It may be why your dog whimpers and looks for a spot to burrow in and hide. Dogs can even experience shocks from the static electricity throughout their body, which results in immense amounts of pain. Most likely, your dog will be in search for a grounded place where he is not affected by the thunder. Thunder can come across as not only loud and threatening for dogs, but it can come across as a harmful factor. Dogs may not understand what is going on, especially if the static is doing something to their coat. It may also depend on what breed of dog you have; and if your dog is a rescue, they may be more prone to have a phobia of thunderstorms. Be patient with your dog, understand their fear, and give them space when in a time of panic.
Encouraging the Behavior
When thunderstorms come and your dog tends to panic, there may be nothing you can do in that moment and encouraging them to freak out isn't the best thing. Encouraging them to relax isn't a wise suggestion, either. Sometimes, when we hear nails on a chalkboard we cringe at the sound and this is the same thing with our pets. We must be understanding of their reaction and support them in the best way we can. We should allow their panic to happen naturally and from that panic, we can better understand our dogs. Then we can make the correct decision on how to help our pet proceed forward. During a storm, we may want to encourage and guide our dogs to a spot that helps them feel safe where they may relax, hide, and be free of static electricity. There are many grounding spots in houses that dogs can find, such as bathtubs, basements, or any place that is enclosed and feels secure. Helping them ride the storm out can be important, too but do it in a way that is not overbearing. A suggestion may be to play classical music for them while the storm is occurring and keep them in a space where they feel safe.
Other Solutions and Considerations
When a storm happens and you notice the static electricity affecting your dog, you may want to find any avenue that can help them besides hiding them and keeping them in an enclosed space. Finding an unscented dryer sheet, and rubbing it over their fur can counter the static electricity, helping your dog feel calm during the storm. But make sure to do it infrequently and use a sheet that has healthy ingredients and not anything toxic your dog may obsessively lick on their coat. There are also products out there such as dog jackets and anxiety wraps that have proven to be quite effective during thunderstorms. It may be wise to try out these suggestions if your dog is in need of these therapeutic outlets.
Thunderstorms can bring about the wildest reactions in dogs and in humans. The loud noises, the flashing lightning, and the chaotic energy fills our homes and our ears. Yet, it is important to make sure everyone is comfortable and well during the storm. Nobody wants a panicked dog running around like their head is cut off.
By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Published: 02/09/2018, edited: 01/30/2020