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Dog Afraid of ThunderThunder Phobias - Inborn, Acquired or Learned?


Thunder Storm Anxiety Prevention - Click Here
for information on preventing anxiety



How do dogs become afraid of thunder? Are they born with the fear or is it an acquired response? I can say with certainty that dogs can acquire a fear of thunder, and a late onset fear of thunder is very common. Many dogs are not afraid of thunder or fireworks for the first few years of their lives and many people report that their dog was not in the slightest bit afraid of thunder until it was four or five years old. Others say that the fear manifested in their dog's senior years.

Interestingly, fear of thunder can also be 'learned' from one dog to another as I know from my own experience. I owned a dog named Jack who was afraid of thunder even when he was a little puppy. Jack was mainly an 'outside' dog (we live in a very temperate climate) with a huge undercover patio, a large garage, a comfy kennel and an acre of land to call his own, but he did come inside on special occasions. He was terrified of thunder and fireworks and would become a shivering, drooling wreck whenever a storm was in the air. He would race from his kennel to under a parked car to wedging himself in the corner of the garage. In fact he just ran and hid but where ever he hid it wasn't good enough and two minutes later he would change positions. If I was outside he would cower and tremble at my feet salivating over my shoes.

Of course I hated seeing him work himself up in this manner and so I would take him inside the house and whisper reassuring words in his ear. Even inside the house he was obviously distressed such was his fear. He wanted to follow me around but every new clap of thunder sent him scurrying to a new hidy hole be it under my desk or wedged in beside the toilet bowl. In fact over the years the toilet became his preferred safe haven from the storm's fury. It's interesting to note that during cyclones or hurricanes the experts tell us to go to the smallest room in the house. Perhaps dogs know this instinctively.


Several years passed and I acquired another dog. A big hulk of a German Sheppard cross Rottie name Judy. Now Judy was a tough girl and thunder didn't make her bat an eyelid. 'What's all the fuss about' she seemed to say. She was very astute though and quickly observed what happened when storms were brewing and Jack became a quivering wreck. She saw him being ushered into the house (for dogs, a place reserved for special occasions) with sweet nothings being whispered into his ear. She quickly learned to associate thunder and Jack coming in the house.

What was a dog with any sense going to do about that? Feign a fear of thunder of course, a sure-fire way of gaining entry into the luxury of 'indoors'. She put on quite a good act with whimpering, whining and scratching at the back door. We weren't fooled of course but saw no harm in letting her in also. Once she was in she settled herself down on the carpet. While savoring the luxury of being inside she suddenly lost all fear of the thunder. Meanwhile, Jack was left to to ride out the storm in abject misery lodged up against the cold hard toilet bowl.

I mentioned previously that Judy was astute and she actually took things one step further when she made a further association. She associated thunder with rain and then put on the scaredy cat act whenever it rained. Jack looked at her with bewilderment. Her performance, sadly, was in vain because we refused to let her inside for feigning fear of rain but we greatly admired her ingenuity.



Thunder Storm Anxiety Prevention - Click Here
for information on preventing anxiety





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