What is it?

Phobia – fear or aversion (Oxford Dictionary).

Thunderstorm phobia is a described as an extreme fear response to storms, or otherstimuli associated with storms.This phobia is often triggered by rain, strong winds, a drop in barometric pressure, static electricity, lightning and thunder.

How can this affect your dog?

They might exhibit, one or some of the following behaviours depending on the dog, and the level of fear being experienced.

  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Trembling
  • Hiding/remaining near the owner
  • Excessive salivation (ptyalism)
  • Destructiveness
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Self-inflicted trauma
  • Faecal incontinence

HOW YOU CAN HELP YOUR DOG – management andtraining

  • NEVER punish your dog as this will lead to an even greater fear.
  • Keep them safe; if they like to hide in a dark damp place, allow them access to this. Similarly, if they need to have human reassurance, of course allow your dog this, but do it in a way that calms your dog.
  • Minimise the stimulus by closing the curtains to reduce lightning flashes.
  • White noise, TV, radio, especially a composed CD called Through a Dog’s Earavailable These can help mask the thunder, as long as they have been played during relaxing times, so that the dog already has a positive association with this sound. Please note that if only played during a storm it will create a negative association with the otherwise calming music.
  • Products that are on the market include Mutt Muffs, Combine the use of these with positive classical conditioning to convince your dog that the earmuffs make wonderful treats happen. Of course, if your dog is disturbed by the muffs even after multiple classical conditioning sessions, don’t force them on your dog.
  • In 2009, a product called the Thundershirt became available. It uses the basic concept as providing constant, comforting pressure around the dog’s body. For some dogs this simulates being held.
  • Adaptil (DAP Dog Appeasing Pherome) This product is a synthetic copy of the natural comforting pheromone released by a mother dog to reassure her puppies, and has comforting reassuring properties that can help when a dog is presented with a fearful situation. It comes in the form of a collar, spray or plug in diffuser.


Use CDs of thunderstorm sounds and/or storm sounds, you can find some online at: Start with the volume at barely audible levels – or even inaudible levels, if your dog is still worried. Pair this low-level sound with wonderful things, such as high-value treats, or games of fetch or tug, until your dog gets happily and consistently excited in anticipation of his favourite things when you turn the sound on. Then turn the volume up slightly and continue.

This is a long-term project; don’t expect to turn up the volume every session. This won’t fix everything and your storm-phobic dog may also react to wind, rain, and even the change in barometric pressure, but it’s a start. When a real storm approaches (or fireworks begin), try the counter-conditioning strategy at the earliest hint of stimulus, and keep your dog playing the game as long as possible. When he’s too stressed to take treats or play, revert to other strategies. It helps if you’re lucky with a lot of near-miss storms that give you conditioning opportunities without reaching full intensity.


The decision to use drugsis best discussed with your vet so you are aware ofwhat is available and which is best suited for your dog.Most dog owners seem to consider prescription medication the last option and will want to try other suggested treatment or management options first. “I don’t want to drug my dog,” is a common concern voiced. Of course some medications have side effects and these are important to be aware of. Medication when prescribed correctly by a qualified Veterinarian can provide a lot of relief for dogs and their human families.

Unlike all the other ideas in this article, medication can be used completely on its own, or more commonly, in conjunction with other techniques as part of an overall management plan for helping your dog handle thunderstorms more effectively.

The message that this article is trying to express is understand your dog, and seek the appropriate professional advice. Be kind to your dog as Storm Phobia is a response to fear and often it is out of the dog’s control. They do need help to keep them safe and as secure as possible, but most importantly they need to be UNDERSTOOD.

Anna Tasker, Paw Power Dog Training 0431 511215 /


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