Can Dogs Hear Thunder Miles Away?

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Introduction

You have likely heard that dogs can sense a bunch of different things humans cannot, like impending bad weather, thunderstorms, and disasters such as tornados or hurricanes. If you have a dog, you know this claim isn't some kind of crazy science fiction and that they can, indeed, sense when a storm is coming. From barking a ton to hiding away under the bed, your pup knows when that scary thunder is coming and they take measures to make sure they are safe when the storm does come. 

Let's take a look at why your dog can sense bad weather, the science behind this behavior, and what signs to look out for to help you predict when an approaching storm is coming. 

Sings of a Dog Sensing & Hearing Thunder From Miles Away

One of the first signs to look out for is when your dog seeks shelter for what seems like no reason. Maybe they will hide under the bed, come inside from being outside, or go into their crate or dog bed when they usually don't. Your dog may also start barking a lot to warn his pack that bad weather, like a thunderstorm, is coming. 

Some dogs may also really like to cuddle up in their owner's lap before the thunderstorm actually hits. Dogs that are scared of storms are more likely to seek the comfort and love of their human when they feel that bad weather is approaching. 

Furthermore, dogs will also pace and move about a lot. It will appear as though they are bored or restless, and you may just think they don't know what to do with themselves. If they are acting in such behavior, take a look at the weather forecast to see if there is a thunderstorm brewing somewhere miles away. 

Have you ever caught your dog sniffing around the air, particularly when they are outside, for seemingly no reason? One of the reasons they could be sniffing the air is because they can actually smell the thunderstorm coming.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice when your dog is sensing thunder & bad weather:
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Ears drop
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

These are some other signs you may notice if your dog is sensing a thunderstorm:
  • Barking Relentlessly
  • Sniffing the Air
  • Hiding Away in a Safe Spot
  • Wanting to Cuddle With You

History of Dogs Sensing Storms

Earth has always experienced bad weather, so it makes sense that dogs and other animals have always been able to sense when bad weather and thunderstorms were coming. In fact, humans used to rely on animals acting oddly to help tell them that bad weather was imminent. 

One of the most prominent examples of dogs', and other animals', ability to sense a storm coming was the 2005 Tsunami that hit Sri Lanka and the coastlines of India. According to many eyewitness accounts, animals and even household dogs fled to safety. Dogs who lived at home would refuse to go outside in an attempt to seek shelter and stay safe from the treacherous weather that was about to come.

Dogs' reactions to thunder and storms could also be a lingering instinct from their undomesticated days and their wolf ancestors. When dogs sense something bad is about to happen, they will run and take cover to make sure they protect themselves. Centuries ago, dogs had to partake in that kind of behavior because it was the only way they could survive a bad storm. 

Acting the same way today throws back to the dog's survival instinct and their need to protect themselves when they sense inclement weather is approaching their location. 

Science Behind Dogs Sensing Storms and Thunder

Dogs use all of their senses when they anticipate a storm is approaching. Dogs are actually able to sense barometric pressure changes. When this pressure in the air changes and charges in electricity change, it can alert the dog that changes in weather are taking place. Sensing this change in pressure alerts your pooch and causes them to try and seek shelter or a safe place to ride out the storm.

They can also sense the atmosphere's heat, compression, and temperature change in the air, which alerts the dog that there is a storm coming. Dogs will also use the heightened sense of smell to sniff out when rain and storms are coming. Humans can smell when there is earthy moisture in the air after a storm passes through. With dogs' much more powerful senses of smell, they can smell the changes in the air much before we even know a storm may be coming. 

Dogs also have an amazing ability to hear things humans cannot, hear different frequencies, and also hear for much greater distances. A dog's ears work independently from one another so they can absorb spacial information and depth much better than we can. This means they can detect sounds that we cannot. In fact, they are able to hear 20 times better than we can. 

Surprisingly, little official scientific research had been done on this topic. All we know for sure is that just as we can begin to hear the low thundering booms of a storm approaching, dogs could already hear the storm coming long before us. 

Training Dogs Who Are Scared of Thunder

You don't have to train your dog to know when a storm is coming - leave that up to their amazing powers and instincts. However, what you can address is when your pup is afraid of thunderstorms. 

Many dogs are very fearful of thunder, so much so that they will shake and cower until the storm is over. One of the first steps you can take is to make sure that you always rewarding calm behavior year round, even when there is no storm. This will teach them being calm is rewarded and accepted. 

You can also make sure they have a safe place to go when there is actually a storm. This means you can make them a comfy, enclosed bed, cover their crate with a blanket, or play soothing music to help drown out the noises of the storm. You can also invest in those special pieces of clothing that hold dogs tightly to make them feel safe and secure. 

If nothing else works, you will need to train them through desensitization and counter-conditioning. This is a process where you will introduce your dog gradually to the sounds of thunder and storms so they can get used to those noises. Play a CD or video of a storm. Play it with the volume low and unassuming at first and then gradually increase the volume as a few weeks go by. 

If and when your dog shows signs of fear, turn it off. Your goal is not to scare them or make them anxious, but to get them to ignore or be at peace with the sounds of a storm. When your dog is able to ignore the storm, praise and reward with treats. The main goal of this process is to train your dog to associate the sound of thunder with something good. 

How To React When Your Dog Senses a Thunderstorm

  • Come inside yourself so you don't get caught in the storm.
  • Make sure they are inside and have safe shelter.
  • Comfort them if they are scared.

Safety Tips for When Your Dog Senses a Storm

  • Make sure you don't reinforce any negative behavior.
  • Don't leave them outside.