Thunderphobia in Dogs

Thunderphobia is the fear of thunderstorms and it can be severe enough to make a dog’s life miserable.  It may be more common than you know.

At least 20% of dogs suffer noise phobias including thunderphobia, according to ethologist Dr. Karolina Westlund, Ph.D.  There are about 80,000,000 dogs in the United States and if 20% suffer thunderphobia the scale of the problem is enormous.

It may be even greater, as Zazie Todd, Ph.D. wrote in Companion Animal Psychology in 2013.

“Dogs that responded badly to fireworks tended to also react to thunder and gunshots. They were also more likely to be older. Dogs that responded to thunder were more likely to be owned by males (although this may be a response bias), would also react to fireworks, gunshots and loud noises on TV, and tended to be afraid of traffic. Dogs that were afraid of gunshots tended to also react to fireworks and cars back-firing, and were more likely to be male and older.”

Thunderstorms worried Jake
Thunderstorms worried Jake

Of the five Labradors I lived with, Jake suffered thunderphobia from the day we adopted him at 18 months of age.  He fell into the 20% category of unlucky dogs.

It changed our life in that we had to become proactive pet guardians and change our own behavior in order to get him through storms.  He was also fearful of distant fireworks and low flying planes.  The noisy world was an unpredictable and scary place for poor Jake.

That was years before I knew anything about training and behavior but we took him to the basement to avoid the flashes of lightning and played music to mask the thunder, playing games with him to keep him in a happy state of mind until the storm passed.

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