Helping Your Dog Overcome His Fear of Thunderstorms

Canines develop phobias just like people. For example, many people are terrified of spiders, and react with fright whenever they see one, even if the specimen is harmless. Others are petrified by steep heights, and will refuse to look down from an elevated position, even from the inside of a building. Though there is little cause for distress in either case, the person may still be overcome with anxiety. A phobia of thunderstorms affects a dog in the same manner. When thunder rolls across the sky, the animal becomes stressed, and even frantic.

This can be frustrating for owners, especially if they believe there is little they can do to address the problem. In this article, we\’ll explain how to treat it. We\’ll first explore how the phobia develops, and describe common signs you might notice in your pet when a thunderstorm approaches. We\’ll then present the most effective method for resolving the issue.

How The Fear Develops

The reason some dogs fear thunderstorms is unclear. Usually, fears are learned when the stimulus has proven to cause harm. For example, if a person hits his canine, the animal will learn to fear him. Thunder, of course, merely produces a loud noise, which is the reason a dog\’s phobia of it is mysterious.

One possible explanation is that the animal has associated thunder with a negative experience in the past. If the association continues to exist in his mind, the sound of thunder may trigger his anxiety.

Another potential cause involves changes that occur in the atmosphere when a thunderstorm approaches. Changes in atmospheric pressure may be noticeable to canines, as well as an increase in the level of static in the air. These changes are out of the ordinary, and might trigger the fear response.

Signs Your Pet Is Afraid Of Thunderstorms

Canines behave differently when confronted by their fear of thunderstorms. Some will pace back and forth as if trying to distract themselves. Others begin to whine or bark to communicate their displeasure. Still others become unable to move due to fear.

Other signs include drooling and panting, inappropriate elimination, and noticeable trembling. Your pet may also ignore your commands out of fright. Some canines will immediately find a place to hide, such as under a table or bed. Many will retreat to their crates. Dogs left outside during a thunderstorm may attempt to escape by jumping over a fence, or attempting to dig beneath it.

If you notice any of these signs, your dog is likely suffering from a severe fear of thunder. His phobia can be treated successfully, but requires taking a methodical approach.

Steps To Reducing The Phobia Of Thunder

Modifying your canine\’s behavior involves counterconditioning and desensitization. The former is focused on creating an association between the negative stimulus – in this case, thunder – and something your pet enjoys (e.g. his favorite food treat). For example, you would give him a treat just before the storm arrives, and additional treats while it is occurring. This trains him, if not to look forward to thunder, at least to remain calm when it arrives.

Desensitization is focused on minimizing your dog\’s fear response when he is presented with the negative stimulus. This is accomplished by exposing him to a small amount, and gradually increasing his exposure. For instance, purchase a CD with sounds of thunder on it. Keep it at low volume so your canine will remain calm. Use treats to reinforce his relaxation. If he is able to stay calm, increase the volume slightly during the next session. By following this process, you will eventually desensitize your dog to the sound of thunder.

Noise-related phobias are common with canines. If you notice your dog exhibiting any of the signs of fear noted earlier during a thunderstorm, use counterconditioning and desensitization training to help him overcome it.

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Category: Pets
Keywords: pets, dogs, dog is afraid of thunderstorms

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