Afraid of Thunder

a close up shows cali's nose. Cali is a golden retriever.


Lots of dogs are “afraid” of thunder. Or, to be more precise, they become anxious during thunderstorms. Some become anxious well before the storm starts (they are far more reliable than the weather forecasts; Weather Puppy should consider hiring Cali, for example, to improve the accuracy of their predictions …).


Not all fear and anxiety is alike and therefore it cannot be treated in the same way.


Cali is afraid of thunderstorms.

Cali is not afraid of loud noises. The thunder itself is not what bothers her. But she can anticipate a storm that is miles away and hours in her future. She senses the approaching storm and paces, clings, and shakes. When the storm starts, she drools and shakes harder. She’s miserable. She is helped by aromatherapy, melatonin, CBD cookies, and lots of hugs and cuddling. Fortunately, we have all of those options available.

Cali’s fear of thunderstorms does not transfer to anything else. She regards fireworks with mild curiosity and hardly reacts to other loud noises.

Cali’s friend is afraid of thunder.

Cali’s friend shall not be named, as they fear career consequences if their (mild) phobia were to become known. However, this friend fears thunder. And fireworks. Presumably, the sonic booms and air raid sirens Jana grew up hearing frequently (in Israel) would send this dog around the bend.

It’s the noise. CBD cookies and melatonin don’t help much. Aromatherapy is hit or miss. Cuddling does help. So does hiding in the basement. This dog is grateful that they were not destined to become a gun dog.

It can be challenging to figure out what, exactly, a dog is worried about. Both dogs act the same way — clingy, trembling, maybe drooling. But they’re not reacting to the same thing. When the noise stops, “friend” is fine; when the air pressure changes back to non-storm normal, Cali is fine. Different problems; different solutions.

Actually, different problems, same solution: Cuddling!


Poor Ziggy. Summer in Kansas is a never-ending cycle of thunderstorms and frenetic lawn-mowing. To make matters worse, his neighbors seem to tag-team each other. No sooner does one mower stop its terrifying buzz than another starts up. When all the lawns are neatly groomed … the thunder clouds roll in.

Ziggy cannot click his heels together, murmur “there’s no place like home,” and wind up back in thundercloud-free Southern California, where he grew up. He wouldn’t even need to worry about lawnmowers there; lawns are practically illegal in California these days. There’s no place like home indeed.

So what’s a poor thunder- and mower-phobic dog to do?

Rescue Remedy did not live up to its name; hiding under the sofa failed to quell his fears, and even the trusty closet let him down, seeing as it has an external wall. His mom’s planning to turn his kennel into a man-cave in the hall, the only place without windows or outside walls, but meanwhile, well, it’s raining. Again. And rain means thunder. When the rain stops, the neighbors fire up their mowers. Again. The cycle continues.

In Ziggy’s case, the ThunderShirt™ does the trick. Donning his trusty gray garment, Ziggy, a.k.a. Thunderboy®, acquires the superpower he needs to survive the back-to-back threats of local lawnmowers and ubiquitous thunderstorms.

Ziggy’s hardly alone in his quandary. And thunder and lawnmowers are not the only anxiety triggers of summer. The suggestions here can help dogs deal with Fourth of July fireworks as well.

WrapNot all dogs are lucky enough to gain superpowers by putting on a ThunderShirt. Other forms of wraps work for some anxious dogs — Jana favors hot pink elastic bandages, for example, when her nerves are on edge. Some dogs opt for a ThunderCap™, but Ziggy prefers to confront his fears with eyes wide open.

Some dogs just need a cuddle. Or a lot of cuddles. In the bed with you. Or on top of you. Others dogs are happier in their own secure fortresses — under or behind furniture or in a secure crate. Closed-sided crates or wire crates draped with towels or blankets work best. Pheromone sprays, collars, and plug-in diffusers work for some anxious dogs, while others can be distracted by music (or TV, for the couch potatoes) or games. A food toy (who doesn’t feel better with a nosh at hand — er, paw?), such as a stuffed Kong, inside the crate could work wonders for your pup’s nerves, if not his waistline.

A warning — dogs with extreme noise phobias might bolt during especially loud thunderstorms or fireworks. Make sure your dog is secured inside your home; a dog who escapes could cover a large distance trying to outrun his fear.

For many dogs, the issues is not the noise, it’s the air pressure and other changes they can feel when a thunderstorm is approaching. Some dogs’ anxiety can kick into high gear well before the first raindrops fall or thunder rumbles. If there’s no escape and no distracting him, medication might be necessary. In extreme cases, a Valium can pacify your perturbed pooch.

If even that fails? Dip into his Valium yourself … one little tablet (or a nice glass of Cabernet) and those anxieties will soon slide into the background.