How Far Away Can A Dog Sense A Storm (Smell and Hearing)?

Dogs are considered to be man’s best friend because of the loyalty they give us. Turns out, dogs are not just loyal but they are a master in detecting when a storm is approaching. In fact, China was able to evacuate and save thousands of lives back in 1975 before an earthquake struck. All because they heeded the warning signs their animals made.

How far away can a dog sense a storm? There is no definitive scientific research available. But our research revealed that dogs can sense a storm 15 to 20 minutes before it arrives. There are scientific explanations as to how can a dog sense changes in weather but not how far.

In this article, we will not only explain how a dog can sense a storm but also explain how you can deal with your dog’s storm anxiety behavior. In addition to that, there is a section that will give some symptoms of dogs storm anxiety that you can easily spot.

Ways A Dog Can Sense A Storm

During my research, I’ve come to read about the science behind the dog’s ability to sense a storm even before we humans do. Turns out, it is not just mumbo-jumbo like some believed. Instead, dog behavior has something to do with atmospheric changes, static electricity in the air, and instincts.

Barometric Pressure And My Dog

Let’s first talk about the barometric pressure and how it can affect your dog.

Apparently, the changes in the air pressure when a storm is brewing or approaching can be felt by our four-legged friends. The charged air produces static electricity on the dog’s fur. This can be felt by dogs, especially the ones who have double coats.

It is not yet certain if this static electricity bothers our furry kids but one thing is for sure, their fur can tell them when a major weather change is happening.

20 Times Better Hearing Capability

Our fur babies have far more sensitive hearing than us humans. So it’s not hard to understand that they can hear and feel thunder long before we can.

The wild cousins of our domesticated dogs – the wolves – have been observed to run into the woods to find shelter long before the storm arrives.

This same instinct is wired into our dogs which is why you may notice your fur babies hunker down inside your bathroom before a storm appears.

So while you may be just hearing the thunder now, keep in mind that your dogs might be hearing that thunder from miles away for quite some time.

Dogs Can Smell 20 Times Better Than Humans

We humans can smell rain a few minutes before it arrives. Now our dogs can smell 20 times better than we can and if we can detect rain just from the scent in the air then you can bet that your dogs can.

Your dog can detect that rain through the smell of the air even if the storm is a few miles away and will hit your home after 15 or 20 minutes. That is how powerful the dog’s nose is.

A dog’s nose twitches a lot when they scent the air and their ears perk up when they hear something. So if they are doing both and then start to exhibit some anxiety then a tornado, hurricane or thunderstorm might just be coming your way.

Breeds That Are Really Sensitive To Storm

Herding breeds are sound sensitive. They need to be because they have to be able to hear their owners whistle from even if they are far away. They may be sensitive to loud thunder too, so if you find your dog a little anxious during a thunderstorm, first figure out if he is a herding dog breed or a mix of a herding dog breed.

One of the forums I visited mentioned that retrievers and hunter dog breeds are not as affected by thunder since they are bred to be around guns. But dogs that were bred to become guard dogs can be sensitive to loud noises. German Shepherds, Border Collies, Rottweilers, Corgis, and Poodles are just some examples of herding dog breeds that are commonly known to suffer from dog storm anxiety.

However, it is important to mention that upbringing plays a major factor when it comes to a dog’s behavior. If you are picking up a rescue dog, be advised that most of them will have little to no socialization experiences or is a dog that has been afraid for most of its life and is already suffering from separation anxiety. They can be a handful and loud noise, including thunder, can be a cause for anxiety.

Dog Storm Anxiety Symptoms

Dogs with storm anxiety exhibit different symptoms. It is up to you to see them and detect them so that you can perform the right steps to alleviate the discomfort your dog feels.

Here are a few symptoms to spot:

  • Pacing – this is a mild agitated symptom that can be easily spotted but it might be hard to determine if the pacing is due to anxiety or excitement.
  • Panting – Dogs pant a lot when they are excited, anxious, afraid and agitated. 
  • Trembling or shaking – This is a sure sign that your dog is suffering from storm anxiety.
  • Drooling – excessive saliva is another sign that your dog is in distress.
  • Howling, whining and barking – You’ll easily determine the differences in whines, bark, and howl of your dog. You can hear the emotion coursing through it just by listening.
  • Wide eyes and flat ears – This is not a sign of submission but a sign that your dog is feeling discomfort right at the moment.
  • Digging or clawing – This is an extreme anxiety reaction as this can lead to harm to both you and your dog. This is a “fight or flight” dog reaction. The storm is too big so he finds a way to shelter and hunker down, prompting him to claw or dig.

If you see a number of these symptoms in your dog during a storm then chances are your pooch is suffering from anxiety. The experts call this canine storm anxiety or storm-phobia. The next section of this article will give you some steps you can take to help your dog deal with their storm anxiety.

Remember that this condition is a serious one for your dogs. Storm-phobic dogs will most likely seek shelter in areas where static electricity cannot bother them. Bathtubs, behind the toilet, sinks, and shower enclosures are just some of the areas where you might find your dog during a thunderstorm. Also, the condition worsens as time goes by. Your dog might not be exhibiting the same symptoms as he did the previous year and that is why the condition is a serious one.

Addressing Your Dog’s Storm Anxiety

It is heartbreaking to see our beloved dogs get agitated, confused and tremble in fear when a storm approaches.

Studies have shown that the anxiety attacks get worse as the season progresses and the thunderstorms come more often. Dog experts suggest these following steps help your dogs overcome their anxiety.

  • The constant reward for calm behavior – the dog will associate that feeling of something good when they are calm if this is practiced. Make sure that you do this calm behavior reward 365 days a year.
  • A place to hide – have a space where your dogs can batten down and hideout while the storm pelts. This will help your dog feel secure and safe during the storm. Choose s place he usually goes to during storms. Set it up with blankets, a water bowl and some background music that will drown out the sound of the thunder.
  • Bundle your dog up – putting your dog in a snug shirt or wrapping them snugly in a blanket can reduce the static electricity on their coat. This can help your fur baby calm down. Try using a Thundershirt or a Storm Defender to reduce static better.
  • Desensitize your dog – get your dog used to the sound of a thunderstorm by playing a thunderstorm sound on a low volume that your dog finds tolerable. Engage in a game with your dog during these times and then as the days go by, increase the volume of the sound little by little. This exercise can only work if your dog is more afraid of the loud sounds because desensitization cannot deal with the changes in the atmosphere and static in the air.
  • Medication – if the symptoms are getting worse and you have tried all other methods then maybe medication needs to be administered. Talk to your vet and discuss if this is the case. He can give you the proper diagnosis and prescribed the correct medication for your dog.

It is also worth mentioning that most dogs with an aversion to thunder will also have an aversion towards other loud noises. So the 4th of July and other events that might have some fireworks can trigger the same anxiety reactions. Loud motorcycles, chainsaw, and drills can also be a trigger 

Never scold or punish your dog during anxiety episodes as this will only reinforce the fear that the dog is already feeling. Remember that your dog can sense emotions, especially your emotion because he is so in tune with you. When you are upset or angry, your dog feels that and you feed that energy to him. So if you get anxious and angry during an episode you are only feeding your dog’s anxiety.

Reassuring your dog might not work in this case too. Your dog might think that his anxiety is something that is rewarded with affection. It is like you are telling him that his behavior is something good and your affectionate actions, such as petting or cooing will only reinforce that idea.

It is better to divert your dog’s attention if he is still responsive or just leave him be until the episode passes. A game can be used to change the focus of your dog or putting on some music. Use those anxiety wraps that reduces static to help calm your dog down.

If the attack is a severe one, call your vet for some drug intervention. Medication should be the last recourse and not the first. Be sure that all medications are handled by a registered vet to avoid any problems for your fur kid.

Related Questions

Can animals sense a tornado?

Yes, animals can sense when a tornado is coming. The forest turns quiet and even the little critters hunker down right before a tornado hits. Others know how to take cover in the forest and even sharks swim deeper in the ocean to get away from the tornado.

Can dogs sense changes in the weather?

Yes, they can. The changes in the weather affect atmospheric pressure or barometric pressure. This, in turn, charges the air molecules causing static electricity to a dog’s fur. Experts say that dogs get shocked during this time and that it can be an uncomfortable sensation for them. You can use anti-static blankets and wraps that are specifically designed to reduce static for dogs if you see that your four-legged companion is being bothered by it.

Can dogs smell as much as they sense?

Dogs are gifted with a great sense of smell as well as a gift of sensing storms and changes in weather.

Dogs have 300 million smell receptors inside their nose compared to a mere 3 million receptors in a human nose. If you want to read more about how far a dog can smell a specific scent, read our blog post.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, dogs can predict if a storm is coming, not because they have superpowers. There is a scientific explanation for it. Dogs have better hearing and smelling than humans so they can hear and smell thunderstorms far longer than we could. Add to that the fact that their coats produce static electricity when the atmospheric pressure changes.

Our four-legged friends are much more sensitive to vibrations too. So that rumbling sound that the thunder makes creates vibrations that dogs can feel far better and farther than us. Not all dogs are okay with the sound of thunder and storm. Some are suffering from canine storm anxiety. The herding and guarding dog breeds seem to be the type that is most prone to suffering from this condition. Watch out for the symptoms and try to lessen your fur kid’s anxiety level by trying out the tips mentioned above.


Michelle

Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Lucy loves playing fetch with her ball and frisbee. Max loves swimming and could walk forever. Latte's life is simple: follow Lucy and Max and fun will happen. Michelle and her 3 dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp and swim.

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