Why are Dogs Scared of Thunder?

white dog looking out the window

Like fireworks, thunder is loud, unpredictable and often brings unexpected flashes of light. There are many reasons dogs may have astrophobia, or “thunder phobia,” though.

Astrophobia can affect both humans and animals. See why dogs are scared of thunder and what you can do to ease your dog’s storm anxiety below.

Why are Dogs Scared of Thunderstorms?

Veterinarians aren’t sure what part of a thunderstorm causes fear and anxiety in dogs. As with fireworks, it could be the noise or the flashes of lights.

For some, it could be the change in their daily routine. Others have more sensitive hearing.

Some dogs can sense the changes in air pressure or may hear the low-frequency rumblings of thunder long before humans can. This can cause anxiety before the storm even hits.

According to some veterinarians, dogs may experience shocks from the build-up of static electricity that accompanies thunderstorms.

How to Calm Your Dog During a Storm

If your dog has astrophobia, or storm anxiety, there are several things you can do to help keep him calm when a storm is on the horizon.

  • Create a Safe Space: Give your dog a safe indoor space to go when he’s scared. If he’s crate-trained, he probably already feels safest there. Cover wire crates with a blanket to help absorb the sound and leave the door open so he doesn’t feel trapped. If your dog doesn’t have a crate or isn’t used to it, try creating a safe place in a corner or small bathroom. Fill it with familiar items like his bed, favorite toys and water bowl. Close the blinds or curtains of any windows so he can’t see outside.
  • Distract Him: If your dog is afraid of thunder, turn the TV on or play calming music to drown out the noise. If he’s feeling playful, grab his favorite toys and play. Be sure to reward him with his favorite treats, too.
  • Prepare for the Next Storm: Try desensitizing your dog to the sounds of thunder. Play those sounds quietly in the background as you play games or give him treats. Over the course of a few weeks, gradually increase the volume during your play sessions. This will help him associate the sounds of thunderstorms with happy times.
  • Talk to Your Veterinarian: Your veterinarian is the best person to talk to when it comes to dogs and thunder. They may recommend a vest, shirt or wrap that applies light, constant compression. This can help alleviate anxiety (similar to calming a baby with swaddling). If your dog’s storm anxiety is severe, ask your veterinarian for alternative remedies to help him feel calmer.

See our Pet Expertise page for more expert tips on dog behavior, caring for your pet and more.

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