If your dog keeps barking at thunder you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you seven common reasons why they do it and what you can do to get it to stop.
So, why does my dog bark at thunder? Possible reasons why your dog barks at thunder are fear, a fight or flight response, a change in the air pressure, or having learned that the behavior is rewarded.
It is actually possible that there is a combination of causes at play. However, there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main causes and there are many things you can do about them.
Why your dog barks at thunder
Below are seven common causes and what would make them more likely.
It could be the case that the thunder causes it to be fearful. This would be more likely if it does it more when there is also lightning and when it is particularly close. It would also be more likely if it shows other signs of being fearful such as crying or hiding. In this case, it would help to try to distract it from the thunder by giving it things such as bones, toys or chews.
Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than we do, the reason why it starts barking could be that it hears the noises much more loudly or possibly that it can hear noises that we can’t.
In this case, you could try to reduce the loudness for it by letting it go in a room where the thunder is harder to hear. You could also close the blinds on windows so that the lightning is less noticeable.
If your dog goes outside, when there is thunder, the reason why it barks could be because of being wet. In this case, it might be doing it to let you known to let it inside or that it is cold. In this case, it would help to avoid letting it get wet and it might help to try and help it to dry off with a towel.
Fight or flight response
It might be the case that the sound of the thunder gives your dog a fight or flight response where it becomes highly alert quickly in order to be prepared to take action if necessary. This would be more likely if your dog becomes anxious as well when it hears the noises.
A change in the air pressure
The cause might be that it senses a change in the air pressure. This is because it will warn it that there is a storm on the way and it might hear the low-frequency noises of the thunder as it approaches (source). This would be more likely if it starts behaving differently before the rain or thunder has even arrived.
You become anxious yourself
Dogs tend to be highly aware of how their owners are feeling. The reason your dog barks, when there is thunder, could be because you get anxious yourself.
The reason why it does it might be that it had bad previous experiences with the sound of thunder and it now sees it as a threat. This would be more likely if it was made to wait in the thunder and lightning before. In this case, it would help to give it desensitization training with the sound of thunder as shown below.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out why your dog has been doing it.
What else happened when your dog first started barking at thunder
If it did not always bark at thunder, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started.
If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as learning that it gets rewards for barking when there is thunder or being left out in the thunder and lightning.
If your dog always barks at thunder
It would also help to consider whether or not it always does it or if it just does it sometimes. It might be the case that the timing has something to do with it.
For example, if it does it more when it is very loud, it would be more likely that it is because the thunder causes it to become anxious.
How to get your dog to stop barking at thunder
Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.
One thing you can do is to give it desensitization training which is where it learns to get used to hearing thunder and to have positive associations with it.
To do this you could play with your dog while playing thunder noises, using the speaker on your phone, in the background. If it starts barking, it would help to stop giving it rewards and to reward it when it is quiet again. Doing this could help to get it to associate the noises with positive things.
Take it to a quieter room
If there is a quiet room, in the house, it might also help to get it to stay in that room while there is thunder so that it is less likely to react to it.
It would help to be calm when interacting with your dog. As mentioned above, it might be the case that it has been reacting to your own anxiousness when there is thunder.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
It might be the case that you have encouraged the behavior by rewarding it. Instead, it would help to reward it when it stops barking and to stop rewarding it when it starts barking. Doing this should teach it that it gets rewards if it does not bark at thunder.
Avoid punishing the behavior
It might be tempting to shout at it for barking but this is more likely to make things worse. By shouting at it, you will be rewarding it with extra attention and confirming to it that something is wrong.
Give it distractions
In addition to the above, you could also try giving it things to be distracted with, while there is thunder. Things that you could give it would include toys, bones and puzzle games.
Reward it when it shows signs of acting normally
It would also help to encourage it to behave normally by rewarding it when it shows signs of being calm when there is thunder and avoiding rewarding it when it acts weird. This should teach it that, if it does not bark when there is thunder, it will get rewards.