Can Dogs Sense Tornados?

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Introduction

Tornados are a very scary and dangerous weather system that can do substantial damage to homes, cars, wildlife, and so much more. Tornadoes are devastating to the people who are affected by them and many personal belongings can be lost in these horrific storms. However, the most important thing is that the people and pets in your family remain safe and unharmed during these storms. Of course, proper preparation is necessary to survive a tornado, but knowing when one is approaching is just as important. Your dog's senses and behavior can often alert you to an approaching storm or tornado so you can get to a safe place with enough time. 

Let's take a look at what signs to look out for and how your dog can sense an approaching tornado!

Signs of a Dog Sensing a Tornado

Dogs will sense a tornado just as they would sense any other approaching storm. Therefore, one of the first signs you can keep an eye out for is when your dog is outside and they try to seek shelter rather suddenly. You may notice them hiding under a bed if they are inside, trying to duck under a tree, or barking to get inside in a way that is different from their normal behavior. Your dog may also start barking or howling a lot to warn his pack, which would be you and your family, that inclement weather is impending - such as a tornado. Keep in mind this behavior often surfaces before you can even tell a tornado or storm is on its way.

On the other hand, some dogs may also like to cuddle up on or near their owner before the tornado actually hits. Dogs that are scared of storms are the ones who usually seek love and comfort if they sense a tornado is approaching. 

Dogs may also pace and move about a lot. You may think they are bored or cannot get comfortable, but if this is not typical for your dog, it may be because they are sensing bad weather on the horizon. And lastly, if your dog is sniffing the air, particularly if they are outside, this could also suggest they are smelling and sensing the changes in the atmosphere, which indicates a storm is potentially coming. 

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice when your dog is sensing a tornado:
  • 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 tornado:
  • Hiding Away in a Safe Spot
  • Wanting to Cuddle With You
  • Sniffing the Air
  • Barking Relentlessly

History of Dogs Sensing Tornados

Storms, dangerous weather, and tornados have been happening on Earth since it was first created. Animals and dogs have also been around for many thousands of years, so their ability to adapt and gain behaviors that help them sense bad and dangerous weather, makes plenty of sense. Animals detecting bad weather was once so important that humans used to solely rely on animals acting oddly and showing common signs to help determine that bad weather was on the way.  

Today, there are still lots of stories about dogs alerting their families to tornados. A series of highly destructive tornados hit Alabama in 2011. One man shared a story about his dog barking and jumping up onto him when he was taking a nap one afternoon. This was not typical behavior for the dog, so the man realized something was wrong. The man turned the TV on only to see a special news report about a large tornado heading to his location. About 15 minutes later the tornado hit and destroyed their town. 

The ability for dogs to sense storms so well could also be a lingering instinct from their wolf ancestors. When undomesticated dogs and wolves sense something dangerous is coming, they flee the scene in an effort to protect themselves. Many years ago, this was the only way for an animal to survive a storm like a tornado or hurricane. 

Science Behind Dogs Sensing a Tornado

Dogs are able to use all of their senses to predict when a tornado and storm are coming. Your dog can detect small changes in barometric pressure, which changes and charges when a storm is approaching a location - this is what alerts the dog that there is something changing with the pressure in the air. 

They can also sense the atmosphere's heat, compression, and temperature change - all of which tell a dog that there is something bad about to happen, like a tornado. We know that a dog's sense of smell is powerful as well, so they will use their sense of smell to detect a storm. Dogs can smell that after rain, earthy scent the air gets after a rainstorm comes through. 

Your dog will also use their ability to hear many different frequencies and sounds to help them determine when a tornado and storm are coming. Their ears absorb spacial information and depth, helping them hear the common sounds of a storm or something dangerous that is on its way. 

Training Dogs Who are Scared of Tornados and Storms

Many dogs are fearful of tornados, storms, and thunder. Some dogs will be so scared that they will shake, cower, and hide away under beds and in closets. If your dog is this fearful of storms, they likely experience a lot of stress and anxiety when a storm is approaching and when it is actually happening. It is important to address these fear and anxiety issues so they do not keep happening and they don't keep getting worse.

Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to keep your dog happy and calm when a storm or tornado does come to your location. 

Make sure you and your family get to a safe location if a tornado is coming. Make sure your dog has an extra safe and comforting place to stay when the storm is coming as well. If you have a basement, this is the safest place to be. Make sure your dog has their bed, their favorite toys, and blankets if possible. This will keep them comforted and even distracted if you can get them to play with their toys. 

It will also be helpful to have a noise machine or a radio that can drown out any thunder, heavy rain, and crashing lightning that may be happening outside with the tornado. Playing music - the sounds of the beach, outdoor sounds, or even white noise - can help keep your dog from hearing the frightening sounds of the storm. Your dog's hearing is very powerful, and they will probably be able to hear what is happening outside, but it will help drown out the sounds a bit. Talking to your dog and taking them into your lap can also help them feel much more safe and secure. 

How to React When Your Dog Senses a Tornado:

  • Comfort them if they are scared.
  • Make sure they are inside and have safe shelter.
  • Get to a safe place - like your basement or an interior room.
  • Come inside yourself so you don't get caught in the storm.

Safety Tips for When Your Dog Senses a Storm or Tornado:

  • Keep them calm.
  • Don't leave them outside, upstairs, or alone.