Thunderstorm Phobia in Dogs

It’s the great month of May here in Indianapolis….the Indy 500, the Broad Ripple Art Fair…and wicked thunderstorms! Many dogs are afraid of thunderstorms. In most cases, this fear worsens as the dog gets older. In worst cases, thunder and lightening instill a “flight” response where the dog feels the need to outrun the storm. If your dog suffers from this phobia, it is very important to make sure he or she is indoors when the weather forecasts thunderstorms in your area.

So, what can you do to lessen the effects of thunderstorm phobia? If your dog only reacts to the sound of thunder, you can try behavior modification. Begin by playing a recording of a thunderstorm. Keep the volume low at first and gradually increase the intensity. Reward with treats, as you ask your dog to sit, come, or lie down while the recording is playing. Don’t offer a sympathetic voice while you do this, instead use your normal voice and lots of petting and praise.

Many dogs are reactive to the atmospheric changes that occur before the storm actually hits. In these situations, the dog may not respond to the technique described above. Many dogs need medication in order to get through thunderstorm terror, so please consult with your veterinarian.

There are herbal remedies that have been found to work well. Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic stress relief formula for pets. You can put a few drops in your dogs water when storms are on the way, or give them a few drops orally if you are caught by surprise. You can use Rescue Remedy alone, or pair it with an essential oil such as Peace & Calming. This oil is formulated specifically for anxiety, stress and emotional discomfort. Rub a drop onto your pet’s forehead, or under the chin prior to a storm as an aromatherapy treatment. In addition to these herbal products, a snug-fitting t-shirt or doggie sweater also helps calm many dogs who suffer from thunderstorm phobia.

You can purchase Rescue Remedy and Peace & Calming at Broad Ripple Animal Wellness Center (the corner of Kessler & College Ave.). For more information, or a tailored behavior program to help your dog with this phobia, please contact our behavior team: Dr. Cara Gardner and Brad Phifer, CPDT at the Broad Ripple Animal Wellness Center, 317.726.2711 or via email: and

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