Dog Fears – Thunder and Fireworks

Dog Fears – Thunder and Fireworks

I adopted Fred in my early years of college. My suitemates from the year before volunteered at the local SPCA and fostered Fred the day before he was to be put down. When I met Fred, he was a 6-month-old, a mixed breed, mostly Yellow Lab but also part counter surfer/escape artist. He was full of energy and the life of the party. What I didn’t know was he was also fearful of thunder, fireworks and anyone wearing a hat.


In a college town in southwestern Virginia, Fireworks were almost a weekly occurrence during the summer and thunderstorms came through nearly every evening. More often than not, the music was too loud and Fred was too tired from the days adventure to hear or care about the daily distant rumbling of a passing storm. However, on the rare occasion that there was more studying than music and a storm was passing overhead, Fred’s phobia came to light.

Under the bed, into the bathroom, under the table and back. Fred paced frantically and panted constantly until the stress of the storm had passed. Admittedly naïve, my handling of this situation bounced between shouting and comforting. The shouting made the poor boy stress out more while the comforting validated his behavior, reaffirming that there was in fact something to fear. Much later in life I would learn more appropriate methods for helping dogs cope with their fears.

Fear of thunderstorms is a very difficult phobia to alleviate, the storms affect multiple sensations that can frighten  dogs.

1. Increases in static electricity in the air

2. Large swings in barometric pressure

3. Sudden loud booms & cracks

Unless you work in the Tessla laboratory, you’ll have a tough time replicating the first two. But you can desensitize and re-condition your dog’s reactions to sounds. The TrainAway app enables you to practice desensitizing your dog to prerecorded sounds of thunder storms while you’re away. You can use the app when you’re at home  and reward your dog with a treat after each noise to condition a positive association with the sound. During the storms bring your dog to the quietest room in your house and use compression garments to help comfort them.

Fred no longer suffers through storms, I’d like to claim this as a success for TrainAway but at 15 y/o, he losthis hearing before the app was released. We have just started TrainAway with my Dad’s Labradoodle, Duncan, who is absolutely terrified of storms, results to follow!

Thanks for reading.

Kris Lawson

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