puppy socialization resources - thunderstorms

Puppy Socialization Resources: Thunderstorms

Thunder is one of the most common noise phobias for dogs, and it's not always just the sound of the storm that can cause fear and anxiety. As storms approach, dogs can sense the change in barometric pressure, and a dog can feel the vibration of thunder in the ground.

While we can't recreate these environmental changes quite like Mother Nature can, you can prepare using sound recordings of thunderstorms and be prepared with high-value treats and providing a safe space for your dog when a storm rolls in. And when there is a storm on the horizon, you can take advantage of the training opportunity.

Taking time to pair the sound of thunder and lighting with positive experiences can help your puppy learn that storms are no big deal. Proactive exposure practice for thunderstorms is especially important if you live in an area that experiences frequent thunder.

How to Acclimate Your Puppy to Thunder

"Start Low, Go Slow"

As with all sound desensitization practice, you want to start with the sound of thunder and lighting at a very low volume. As your puppy gets used to the sound, you can slowly raise the volume over time. If at any point you notice stress or fear in your puppy's body language, lower the volume or turn it off completely. Watch for any sudden startles, ears back, wide eyes, tail tucked, or paw lifts.

You can desensitize the sounds in a few different ways:

  • Have a treat pouch ready, stocked with lots of yummy high-value treats. Whenever the sound of thunder of lighting happens, scatter few treats on the floor for your puppy to eat.

  • Give your puppy a stuffed interactive toy filled with their regular meal or scattered food on a snuffle mat when you play the sound recordings.

  • Have a play session while the sound of thunderstorms is playing in the background. Play tug, fetch, or whatever game your dog loves the most.

Real-Time Thunderstorm Counter Conditioning

When a thunderstorm approaches, make sure you're prepared to create positive associations with any cracks and rumbles of thunder. Here are a few tips for helping a puppy through a thunderstorm:

  • Turn on a fan, sound machine, or the television to provide some noise masking.

  • Keep a treat pouch on you stocked with super high-value dog treats. Any time there is lightning or thunder, say "treats!" (or whatever party word you want to use) and scatter a small handful of treats on the floor for your puppy. This is creating the association that the sound of thunder, while sudden and often startling, is followed by something amazing!

  • Play fun games or do short and sweet training sessions with your puppy throughout the storm.

  • Give your dog a massage or have cuddle time.

  • If your puppy is scared, consider using other calming techniques, such as having your puppy wear a compression vest or shirt, plugging in calming dog pheromones, or speaking with your veterinarian about supplements or prescription medication to help with noise anxiety.
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