During thunderstorms and fireworks, dogs may exhibit fear and anxiety due to the loud, unexpected noises and bright flashes. Behaviors include hiding, barking, trembling, panting, drooling, pacing, or trying to escape. Some dogs may also exhibit destructive behaviors or become more clingy and seek comfort from their owners.
Reasons a Dog Barks at Thunderstorms or Fireworks
Fear or Anxiety
Dogs can become fearful or anxious due to loud noises and sudden flashes of light during thunderstorms or fireworks. This can cause them to bark excessively. For example, dogs might start barking when they hear a thunderclap or firework explode.
The sudden loud noise of a thunderstorm or firework can startle a dog, causing them to bark. This is an instinctual response. For instance, a dog sleeping peacefully might suddenly start barking unexpectedly when a firework goes off.
Pain or Discomfort
Some dogs are more sensitive to the atmospheric pressure changes that occur during a thunderstorm, causing discomfort or pain and leading them to bark. A dog that starts barking even before the thunderstorm begins might be reacting to these pressure changes.
Dogs are social animals and often bark to alert their human family or other animals in the house to potential dangers. So, when they hear a thunderstorm or fireworks, they might bark to warn others. A dog looking toward the owner while barking during a thunderstorm is probably trying to alert them.
Some dogs may bark during a thunderstorm or firework to seek attention or comfort from their owners. If a dog comes to its owner and barks while seeming anxious, it might ask for comfort.
Dogs use barking as a form of communication. They might be trying to express their fear, discomfort, or confusion during a thunderstorm or firework. For instance, a dog barking at its owner might be trying to communicate its fear.
If a dog has been comforted or rewarded for barking during loud noises, it might have learned to associate barking with positive attention. In this case, the dog may bark during a thunderstorm or firework expecting a similar response. For example, a dog given treats to quiet it during a storm may continue to bark in future storms, expecting more treats.
Some dogs might express their basic needs by barking during thunderstorms or fireworks. For example, a dog might need to go outside for a bathroom break but is afraid to go out because of the noise. The dog’s barking, in this case, is a signal of its discomfort.
Tips to Control Excessive Barking and Calm a Dog during Thunderstorm or Fireworks
Create a Safe Space
Make a comfortable, quiet area where your dog can retreat during a thunderstorm or fireworks. This can be a favorite room, crate, or even a closet. For example, if your dog likes its crate, make it cozy with blankets and allow the dog to go there when it’s scared.
Use Noise-Canceling Tools
You can try noise-canceling headphones specifically designed for dogs or play white noise or calming music to help mask the noise of thunderstorms or fireworks. Playing your dog’s favorite relaxing tunes during a storm can help them feel safer.
Anti-bark devices are tools designed to deter excessive barking by emitting an unpleasant stimulus when a dog barks. This can be a high-frequency sound, a burst of citronella spray, or a mild electric shock. The intention is to create an association in the dog’s mind between barking and an undesirable experience, thereby discouraging the behavior. Remember to use such devices responsibly and under guidance from a professional, as they can potentially cause fear or distress if not used correctly.
Try Calming Wraps
Products like anxiety wraps or thunder shirts apply gentle, constant pressure, akin to swaddling a baby, which can help calm a scared dog. Use this on your dog when you anticipate a storm or fireworks.
Engage your dog with its favorite toys, treats, or a game to help take its mind off the noise. For instance, a chew toy filled with peanut butter might keep your dog occupied, even during loud noises.
Desensitize and Counter-Condition
Gradually expose your dog to the sounds of thunderstorms and fireworks at a low volume and in a controlled environment, rewarding calm behavior with treats. Over time, increase the volume. This can help your dog become less reactive to these sounds.
Seek Professional Help
If your dog’s fear of thunderstorms or fireworks is severe, consider seeking help from a certified or veterinary behaviorist. They can develop a personalized training program for your dog.
Consult Your Vet for Medication
If the fear is extreme and none of the above methods work, speak to your vet about possible medications or natural remedies to help your dog stay calm during thunderstorms or fireworks. Always use such options under professional supervision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you ignore a dog scared of thunder and fireworks?
Ignoring a dog scared of thunder and fireworks may exacerbate fear and anxiety. It’s better to provide comfort and use positive reinforcement to help them cope.
Can dogs stay outside during a thunderstorm?
Dogs should not be left outside during a thunderstorm due to the risk of harm from the storm and the potential for increased fear and anxiety due to exposure to loud noises and flashes.
What to do if fireworks are near your home?
If fireworks are near your home, close windows and curtains, play soft music to mask the noise and provide a safe space for your dog to retreat. You might also consider using calming aids or distractions like toys and treats.
Why dogs don’t like thunderstorms or fireworks?
Dogs may dislike thunderstorms and fireworks because of the loud, unpredictable noises and bright flashes, which can be overstimulating and frightening. Some dogs may also be sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure during storms.
Can cuddling calm a dog during a thunderstorm? Can it develop a negative behavior?
Cuddling can help calm a dog during a thunderstorm by providing a sense of security. However, rewarding fearful behavior with attention might reinforce the fear, leading your dog to seek comfort through fear-based behaviors in the future. Combining comfort with other coping strategies like distractions and desensitization is best.