• Home
  • Training
  • How to Train Your Dog to Stop Being Afraid of Thunder

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Being Afraid of Thunder

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Being Afraid of Thunder
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon2-6 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

It’s 2am you’ve got an important day at work tomorrow--it’s that big meeting that could mean the difference between getting that promotion you’ve always wanted or staying in the same miserable position you’ve been in for years. You’ve never needed a good night’s sleep so desperately, but then it happens the dog starts howling... and then you hear the thunder. Do you love your four-legged friend desperately, but are sick of being woken up in the middle of the night or having to clean up the carnage left behind by their fear-of-thunder-fuelled rampage? Then it’s time to take matters into your own hands and train your pooch to stop being afraid of thunder, for both of your sakes.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

Although not a command as such, it is important to train your pupper to stop being afraid of thunder, as very anxious dogs often do damage to themselves and their surroundings during a thunder-fuelled panic attack. They can destroy furniture and injure themselves in the process, for example, which puts your pooch in danger and could make for some very expensive vet bills and concern over your pooch's wellbeing. Although you want to train your dog to stop being afraid of thunder as soon as the initial problem develops, as you are more likely to have success this way before it becomes a permanent and learned behavior, you can try with older dogs also. However, if the problem is very severe you may need to enlist the help of a veterinarian, medicating your pet accordingly, if they are a risk to themselves. This will be a difficult task to achieve, as it is difficult for pooches to overcome fear and the time it will take is very much dependent on the particular pooch.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

There are a few different ways to try and stop your pupper being afraid, and the equipment you’ll need depends on the approach you’re going to take. Toys and treats can work as a pleasant distraction from the scariness of a storm; it can also be a good idea to have items that you don’t mind being destroyed, such as an old toy or rawhide bones, which your pooch can focus his energy on. Over the counter medications from the vets may also be worth a try, such as pheromone diffusers or anti-anxiety tablets. Create a comfy place for your pooch to hide in; if you’re going to manage his environment, it could be a good idea to have a little sound proof den for him. Most of all, remember to be patient and not to reprimand him as this will only increase his sense of fear, instead be reassuring, calm and patient.

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Fun And Distractions Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Play!

When the storm starts, pick up your dog's favorite toy and start playing in the rain and distracting them.

2

Gauge the response

If he seems less fearful when you’re doing this, give him a treat and tell them what a good boy he's been.

3

Try walking in the rain

Try and get rid of those bad habits by walking your dog in the rain during the thunderstorm and playing with him. If they respond well, give them a treat. If they’re very fearful, take them back in--it’s not worth risking your pooch's safety, as the last thing you want is him running off.

4

Give him a chew toy

Give your dog an item which you don’t mind being chewed up or one that is designed for chewing. Rawhide bones are a good choice.

5

Be gently reassuring

By all means, console your dog and let him know that you’re there for him, but don’t do this overly so or spend all your time reassuring him, as this will just reinforce his fear that there is something he needs to be protected from.

The Adapt the Environment Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Safe spaces

Give your pooch a safe place to hide away in, such as putting his bed in a quieter part of the house, out of the way of the noise.

2

Make everything quiet

Close the curtains or the blinds and try to drown out as much noise as you possibly can.

3

Distraction noises

You could play some soothing music or turn up the TV in order to mask the sound of thunder.

4

Stimulate other senses

There are various remedies available at pet stores, such as calming wraps, that might be worth a try on your pooch.

5

Reward calm behavior

If the above steps are working and he’s settled down, give him a tasty treat and some praise to let him know that there’s nothing to be afraid of and this is the way he should behave.

The Aids and Medications Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Over the counter tablets and liquids

There are many preparations you can buy, such as anti-anxiety tablets made from natural ingredients. However, these often have to be used well before the event of a storm, so make sure you use them far enough in advance.

2

Plug in a diffuser

Pheromone diffusers remind your pooch of when he was with his mother and so often have a lovely, calming effect. You could try plugging one in and seeing if that makes a difference.

3

Give it a spray

Although likely not as effective as a diffuser, pheromone sprays can be bought and sprayed on your pet's bedding to make them feel calmer.

4

Visit a vet

If none of the above steps are working, it may well be time to call on the help of a vet and get some stronger medications for your pet, particularly in the instance where your pet is so fearful that they are injuring themselves and destroying the home.

5

Visit a behaviorist

Again, if none of the above steps work, it may be time to also enlist the help of a professional behaviorist if living with your pupper is becoming hard work and particularly if they are also developing other fears. They may be able to give you some more pointers of where you’re going wrong with your pooch.

By Catherine Lee-Smith

Published: 11/01/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Ginger

Dog breed icon

German shepherd lab mix

Dog age icon

Three Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Hello! Right now, it is nighttime and windy outside and my dog is blocked in the kitchen with a dog gate that has been broken recently and a big red toolbox with wheels in front of it right now. Classical music is being played, but it isn't doing any good. Ginger can move the red toolbox and knock down the dog gate and will go upstairs to ease her anxiety. My parents don't want her upstairs however but also don't want to deal with this chaos. Any suggestions please?

Sept. 23, 2022

Ginger's Owner

Dog nametag icon

Isaac

Dog breed icon

English Setter

Dog age icon

9 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

User generated photo

Severe fear of storms - Isaac is a rescue and has been with us for 7 years - his fear of storms and fireworks has increased and he has anxiety attacks when it rains or he anticipates storms - he wakes up at night panting, running trying to hide and digs on carpets and floors. He seems to have gotten worse. I give him spaces to hide, close blinds, use a thunder vest, put music or tv on, remain calm comforting without too much doting, he gets himself so worked up nothing seems to calm him. Looking into Bach stress relief or cbd oil.

June 18, 2022

Isaac's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cindy, First, know that I am not a vet, so I can't advise on supplements or medications. I can say as a fellow pet owner, I have seen CBD oil help anxiety in dogs. I haven't tried Bach yet. I would also find a trainer with a lot of experience counter conditioning - most trainers probably aren't going to have the experience to deal with this level of fear, but if you can find one who has worked successfully with dog's with trauma and understands anxiety and counter conditioning and desensitizing, combining that with the thunder shirt and a supplement that helps anxiety internally, might be something worth trying next. The main goal in these situations is to desensitize so there is less fear associated with the storms and to get pup in a working and calmer mindset and out of fight or flight during the storm. This is often done by conditioning pup using small experiences of storms (like recordings set on low volume at first), and gradually working up to the real thing as you practice training and playing with pup to engage their mind, while including a lot of rewards for pup's good attitude while the recording plays. As pup improves, the background sound is increased and the training to engage that thinking part of pup's brain (to keep pup out of fight or flight) and rewards to help pup associate the experience of the noise with pleasure, is continued, and the sound gradually increased as pup progresses. I find that medication or supplementation combined with behavior modification training tends to works best for more extreme cases when combined together. I am not a vet though, so work with a vet experienced with those supplements for their recommendation on that end too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 20, 2022


Training assistant
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.