Most animals -especially dogs, due to their heightened sense of hearing- are afraid of loud noises. Excessively loud sounds, like clapping, balloons popping, fireworks, and thunder, often startle dogs, and send them into sudden outbursts of fear. Some dogs have even been known to break through windows, walls, doors, etc to get to their “safe place” during periods of loud noise. But why?
Other than the obvious “loud sounds are scary,” dogs have another reason for bolting to their safe place.
An article, published by Psychology Today, suggests that “some dogs’ behavior during a storm means they are seeking an electrical ground to avoid electrostatic shock.” Dogs are known to take cover behind toilets, in bathtubs, or even pressed against the radiator, suggesting that they can sense changes in the electric field.
The “Weather Guys,” Steven Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, of the UW-Madison Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, elaborated on this theory.
“A bolt of lightning is an electrical discharge, much like a shock you get when reaching to grab a metal door knob after walking on a rug, just much more energetic.”
Proof of these findings is a natural weather phenomenon called St. Elmo’s Fire. This describes the luminous blue/violet fire-like glow surrounding metal objects during a storm. St. Elmo’s Fire is most commonly seen on masts of large ships during thunderstorms, but has also proven to take shape around household pipes. This creates an “electrostatic charge,” which may affect the electric field within the home.
“A large dog with thick fur walking around on insulating foot pads is an ideal object for accumulating static charge, which will discharge. The dog becomes conditioned to expect random shocks during the storm, probably not something anyone wants to endure.”
So, there you have it!
Your dog has many reasons to fear loud noises associated with thunderstorms, including uncomfortable electrostatic shocks on his little feet. Next time he starts to panic during a storm, set up camp with him in the bathtub.
1. Wisconsin State Journal 2. Wikipedia