Some dogs are terrified of thunderstorms while others are unfazed by the atmospheric phenomenon. Many people will tell you that they know what makes one dog a trembling mess every time it storms while others are unbothered, but I would take those claims with a grain of salt. I have yet to read a theory on the matter that held up to the scrutiny of more than a handful of real life scenarios. The simple truth is that dogs, like humans, come in all shapes and sizes and each has his own unique personality. Some people are scared of clowns; others aren’t. Some people like tomatoes and I would rather lick an ashtray than eat one of those weird, gushy fruits. To each their own and that extends to man’s best friend.
Rather than trying to get to the psychological root of your dog’s fear of thunder or spend another minute attempting to fix the blame for his thunderstorm hysteria, it’s time to start working on a solution. Some dogs will respond to your state during times of stress. If you stop what you’re doing the next time the thunder comes and sit with your dog, whispering quiet assurances while gently stroking his fur, you will most likely mitigate the problem. Better yet, you may put your pet on the road to recovery. Repeating this pattern each time it storms may eventually teach your dog that there is nothing to fear when it storms outside.
Another method that has worked well for many people is acclimating your pet to the sounds of the storm. Get an audio recording of thunder (you can easily obtain one for free online from any one of a number of sources) and play it at a very low volume. Gradually, over the course of several days at the least, increase the volume. By the end of a week, your pet should become accustomed to the sound. The next time it storms, he may find the sounds of the real thing less alarming.
Neither method is guaranteed. Both working in tandem is better than either one alone. Remember that this is not an instant miracle cure. Your dog – for whatever reason – has a deep fear of a storm and you cannot expect that terror to disappear immediately. Take a long view and stick with the one-two punch of these treatments over a period of time and you should see dramatic improvement over the course of the next few thunderstorms that hit your area.
One final, very important, note: you cannot punish your pet out of being afraid. Even if your dog gets so scared that he urinates on the floor or howls until he wakes all your neighbors, punishment is not the answer. You cannot punish his fear away. It takes a patient and loving hand to guide your dog away from the fear of the storm and into the comfort of knowing that he is in a safe place.