Bark! Bark! Bark! Do you hear that? If you have a dog or know a friend or neighbor who has one, then you're surely all-too familiar with the sound of a dog trying to communicate with the world around it.
Communicate? That's right! Although they can't speak like human beings, dogs do have ways of communicating with the humans and other animals around them. Wags of the tail, a submissive posture, and, of course, a bark are all ways dogs communicate.
If you have a dog as a pet, then you've probably wished more than once that you had a bark-to-English dictionary to interpret the messages your dog tries to convey. Some barks mean “I'm hungry," while others mean “Leave me alone!"
But what about all that barking that goes on when a thunderstorm rolls in? Is your dog expressing displeasure with the weather? Is he upset that he's going to get wet when he goes outside? As most dog owners have experienced, dogs can get really upset during storms and many let you hear about it with a bout of boisterous barking.
While we can't be sure what dogs are conveying when they bark during thunderstorms, many experts believe they may simply be expressing fear. As humans, we can relate to that emotion, since many people are also very scared of storms.
And why shouldn't we be? Storms can be very dangerous. High winds, heavy rains, and lightning bolts can cause all sorts of damage. Dogs that have been outside during storms know how dangerous they can be. Fear is a natural reaction.
When dogs feel fear, barking is often an outlet to express this emotion. As a storm approaches, dogs may feel helpless and scared. This feeling leads many dogs to bark to express their fears. Some dogs have even more dramatic reactions, causing them to panic and hide in a safe place. Of course, not all dogs are scared of thunderstorms. Like some people who love storms, some dogs just aren't bothered by all the thunder and lightning.
If you have ever lived with a dog, you may have noticed that barking related to a thunderstorm may start well before you see any rain or hear any thunder. Did your dog watch the local weather forecast? Or can dogs predict the weather?
Although it would be very cool if dogs could predict the weather, their ability to know about storms before we do can be explained simply by science. Most big changes in the weather, such as an approaching storm, are preceded by a drop in the barometric pressure and shifts in the static electricity fields that surround us.
Dogs are much more sensitive than humans to such changes. While you're still enjoying your favorite television show, your dog can sense these changes in air pressure and electricity and begin to warn you about what he senses is on the way.
Dogs can also smell approaching storms way before you do. Have you ever walked outside, taken a deep breath, and thought to yourself, “It smells like rain!" Often what you smell is ozone in the air as a result of lightning. Since dogs' noses are much keener than our own, dogs can smell those smells way before we do.
Likewise, dogs have hearing that's about 20 times better than our own. When a thunderstorm approaches, dogs can hear faraway thunder much earlier than we can. Before we have any clue that a storm is on the way, a dog may hear thunder and begin to sound the warning by barking. So the next time bad weather is forecast, keep an eye on your pooch and you'll likely have an early warning that the storm is on its way!