Does thunder scare your dog? Here's how to get noise anxiety under control | Pet Peeves

Noise phobias in dogs are typically related to a specific set of sounds. It can be the sound of bombing. It can be thunder from the severe storms we experience on the Emerald Coast.

In her book "Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals," Karen Overall included a 1991 survey of the animals exhibiting noise phobias. Of them, 97% were triggered by thunder or thunder like sounds (firecrackers, backfires) and less than 10% were triggered by televisions, stereos, vacuum cleaners, sirens or motor vehicles.

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Based on this study, it's easy to see why bombing and thunderstorms would account for the large majority of noise phobias in our area. Development of the noise phobia may occur suddenly after an intense exposure. An example of this would be several days of severe lightning storms. But many cases we see start slowly and build with time. As the dog gets older, he becomes more and more fearful of storms and similar noises.

Establish routines

One of the best ways to combat fear and anxiety is to have a routine established that your pet can rely on whenever he feels troubled or scared. This routine should begin with a common command such as "sit and stay" or "lie down." This would be something that the two of you have practiced on a regular day to day basis when nothing is distracting the pet.

Have a safe space (that's not a cage)

Also have a safe place for the dog to escape the storm noises and lights. Never make the safe space a closed cage. If you attempt to lock up a dog when he is scared, he will do damage to himself trying to get out of the cage. Your pet's safe place might be a kennel with the door removed or under a bed in a room with few windows.

When the dog starts to act anxious, use the sit and stay commands to calm the dog and show him that you are in control of the situation and nothing has changed. Guide him to his safe area. Do not make a big deal by over comforting the dog. Praise him for calm behavior but try to ignore anxious behavior or acting out.

Thunder shirts and pet sweaters

Consider applying an article of clothing to the pet such as a pet sweater or a thunder shirt. Thunder shirts can be found at They apply constant gentle pressure over the body of the pet giving it comfort. Many people think they work well. A pet sweater is a less expensive option, but is not body hugging and is less likely to be effective.

Medicine can help in extreme cases

Some dogs are stressed out beyond what simple comforting techniques can address. Adding behavioral medicine can give the best results in really severe anxiety cases. Medications must be chosen in consideration to the cause of the anxiety. For instance, bomb noise phobia can happen at any time and the pet may need to be on daily anti-anxiety medication such as Prozac, while thunderstorm anxiety may be treatable with medications such as Trazadone or Alprazolam on an "as needed" basis. Your veterinarian can explain your options more thoroughly.

This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: How to help dogs with noise anxiety cope with thunder, loud noises