How to Train Your Dog to Stop Being Afraid of Thunder

Hard
2-6 Months
Behavior

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.

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.

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.

The Fun And Distractions Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Play!
When the storm starts, pick up your dog's favorite toy and start playing in the rain and distracting them.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Adapt the Environment Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
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.
Step
2
Make everything quiet
Close the curtains or the blinds and try to drown out as much noise as you possibly can.
Step
3
Distraction noises
You could play some soothing music or turn up the TV in order to mask the sound of thunder.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Aids and Medications Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?
author-img

Written by Catherine Lee-Smith

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Tyron
Shih Tzu
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Tyron
Shih Tzu
4 Years

Hi! my dog ​is really afraid of the thunder, no matter how many times I put him in his crate, and even playing a calming music just to make him calm, he's still shaking. what do I need to do?

Add a comment to Tyron's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Fish (not a joke)
Mix
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Fish (not a joke)
Mix
5 Years

Our dog works with the military which means that she is around loud noises quite a bit, the problem is that she gets very nervous and tries to hide when storms or loud noises are around her. We don't really have the option to give her a safe room most of the time she isn't game and I was hoping that you might have an idea to get her safety use to being around the noise while staying calm.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
225 Dog owners recommended

Hi there. So there are two parts as to why dogs are afraid of storms. It is the sound, but also the electrical activity that is going on in the air. You can desensitize a dog to the sound. And from your description, she may very well be accustomed to loud noises. So my only other option to suggest is something called a Thunder Shirt. You can get these online and put one on her while there is a storm. I have heard so much good feedback from people. Give one a try and see if it helps her out.

Add a comment to Fish (not a joke)'s experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Hershey
German Shepherd
10 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Hershey
German Shepherd
10 Years

Has been experiencing increasing anxiety with storms. Now even includes heavy rain without thunder. Vet has prescribed gabapentin (no longer effective) and trazadone (never really helped). Is not getting very destructive. I love my dog, but can no longer tolerate the cost of the destruction. Training and behavior modification has been ineffective. At wits end.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jon, I recommend teaching pup to go into their crate on command, and to go to Place, and work up to pup being able to stay on either of those places during high distraction periods for up to 2 hours at a time. I would also purchase a recording of various storm sounds and begin playing them at almost inaudible levels while doing really fun or relaxing activities with your dog, like games involving delicious treats. As pup improves and doesn't seem bothered by the storm soundtrack, very gradually increase the level overtime, until pup can handle a storm like volume. It's important to do this often, very gradually so pup actually can relax and focus on the fun thing while its happening and not start becoming anxious, and to keep your energy confident and happy or calm, and not impatient, anxious or angry then as well. Giving pup jobs to do during storms once they have improved a bit can also help when you are home. Having pup run through lots of commands or even agility obstacles, with your energy being confident and enthusiastic, keeping the part of their brain that's required for thinking active to avoid some of the flooding from the part involved in fear. I would focus the most on the daily training with the soundtrack though. While pup is still working up to the thunder sounds, if you haven't already tried it, I would purchase a thunder shirt to see if that deep pressure helps pup during storms. Often the thunder shirt is only part of the solution but you may find it useful in this middle period. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Hershey's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd