Only Happy When It Rains

Or, in Shiva’s case, only unhappy when it rains. I’ve had the old Garbage song in my head for several days and couldn’t resist a using the title here, as melancholic as it may be.

A friend of mine shared an image on Facebook that has got me Google searching things I don’t think I’ve ever typed before. Things revolving around “refraction” and “wave relationships”. It’s all a little too sciencey for my humanties-loving brain. After finishing high school physics, I never thought I’d see the day I’d spend hours reading articles on just for my own personal interest.

Dogs, they change your life in mysterious ways.

Here is the image that caused my sudden plunge into geekdom:

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any specific scientific data proving this concept. It seems no one has actually done an experiment to see if rain really does amplify sound in a way that bothers dogs. At least, not that I could ferret out. But from what I have learned about reflection, refraction, and the more interesting diffraction, it is certainly possible.

Not to get too dorky but the reflection of sound waves can cause a number of interesting effects on our heating. When sound waves reflect off of curved surfaces with a parabolic shape, like water, they frequently focus to a point. These waves then concentrate their energy toward that single point in space. At that point, the sound is amplified. Also, sound waves travel faster in a denser medium, such as rain. A change in wave speed causes a change in wavelength. The higher the compression of the wave, the louder the sound.

Thus, I think there is the potential for sound-sensitive dogs to be bothered by the rain. Or, I could have misinterpreted everything and be completely wrong. There is a pretty good chance of that.

Cute photo of my dog to distract from my scientific ineptitude

 Regardless of everything, I still don’t think this excuse works for Shiva. She regularly sleeps through fireworks displays and has never shown a sign of distress at the sound of thunder. My nerves freak out at loud banging sounds but Shiva barely acknowledges them.

However, I would love to know what you think? Do your dogs run away screaming from the rain like mine does? Do you think the sound could be the cause? Are you as amazed I passed physics as I am?

22 thoughts on “Only Happy When It Rains

  1. Sam goes in the rain because he doesn’t like the alternative – going in the house… Monty on the other hand could care less if it is raining, thundering, dark, light, dust storm – as long as he gets to go outside!



  2. Rain amplifies sound… Really? I never knew that…

    Pluto freaks out when there’s fireworks going on outside…and he freaks out if loud music is played…he even gets restless if I’ve downloaded a new ringtone and my phone keeps ringing… BUT rains? NEVER. He actually was pretty excited whenever we went out during rains…so much so that I started believing that he likes “water” (it was rather strange to see him enjoying water coz bath times are a nightmare for me usually)


  3. I’m a big Garbage fan! Bender doesn’t like wind and rain but I think that is because they are often precursors to the thunder that he fears so much. Barbie doesn’t seem to mind the rain but she soaks through so quickly with her thin coat that she clearly doesn’t like being wet, she also doesnt like to walk on wet ground in the backyard, even though wet ground is OK if we are going for a walk because walks are EXCITING!


  4. What a neat question! I hadn’t ever thought about rain amplifying noises. I think it’s more likely that rain masks normal sound patterns, which make it harder for the dog to ensure that the environment around him is safe. (We have the same problem with horses – rain masks the sounds predators make that would alert the herd to danger, so they tend to hang back, stick close together, etc.) Another possibility is that rain changes the scent picture of the outside world for the dog. Dogs rely very heavily on their noses to gather information; rain certainly will change the scent picture in a way that could distract the dog (making him pause before going out) or worry the dog. My Springer LOVES rain and wet weather, but the first thing he does when he goes out in the rain is stand stock still and sweep with his nose before blasting off to find puddles. Interesting and though provoking post! Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  5. I totally dorked out over your post! Love me some science!
    (now i have blinded me by science stuck in my head. thanks.)
    I wonder how the intensity of rain affects sound? Since we get mostly drizzles here, is it as amplifying as a thunderstorm or less amplifying? And what affect does rain have on smell? I would imagine that it could both amplify smells by the rain kicking up smells lingering on the ground and also wash them away at the same time? Is that a paradox? Is your brain exploding yet?


  6. Blueberry will go out in the rain, but I have to go out there with her. I guess she figures if she’s gonna be wet, I have to be also. She’s not too bothered by loud noises either – she will look to me first to see my reaction.


  7. Silas just plain old doesn’t like to get his feet wet. He won’t use the bathroom in his usual places not only *while* it is raining, but also *after* it rains, until the ground reaches a certain level of dryness. (Silas is more neurotic about peeing than any male dog I have ever heard of.) Fortunately now he’s old enough to hold it all day if he has to.


  8. LOL Kristine, you got way farther with physics than I did!

    I would have to say I disagree and here’s why. If I open the door to let the dogs out to potty they won’t go. They will hold it as long as caninely possible.

    HOWEVER if I put their collars on and take them out front (the way we head to our walks) they go with no problem, even enthusiastically.

    Now the original theory might hold true for some dogs who are sensitive to sounds anyway, but I don’t think it holds true for my dogs. 🙂


  9. You’re a better woman than I am. I’ll wait for one of those great journalists who makes science easy to understand, like Mary Roach, to write about it before I’d ever visit a physics website.

    But rain does have a lot going on. The barometric pressure drops which dogs are also sensitive to. And yes, I believe it amplifies smell as well. Dogs “see” motion much better than we do. I’d imagine all that motion in the air has an effect. I believe it’s the motion that causes many dogs to get excited by snow.


    Our fundraiser walk on Saturday was in a downpour and none of the dogs seemed to bothered by it.


  10. Wow, you passed physics. I am uber impressed. When I went to school when we stopped understanding math and science, we didn’t have to take them any longer and could choose more literature classes.

    My water Poodle loves rain and my Poodle who growls at his water dish gladly would wait for spring to pee if I didn’t push him out.


  11. First of all, let me confess my eyes glazed over those physics paragraphs and I didn’t read them I LOVE THAT PICTURE OF THE DOG LOOKING AT THE RAIN. Oh my. It has such an intensely quiet and personal feel about it.

    Georgia hates going out even in a sprinkle, so I’m not sure about the sound thing. I notice she bats her eyes a lot in the rain and probably doesn’t like it getting into her eyes. Apart from that, I have nothing to add to the scientific discussion.


  12. I have never heard that theory before. I can say that the Greyhounds, who are made of spun sugar, you know, will go out in the rain without protest if we put their raincoats on. I’m curious about the whole theory now!


  13. Thank you for doing the research on this!!!
    I shared the image and words too, but had my own doubts as I did so. Not because I didn’t believe it (I am no science geek, so I have no idea if sounds would bother dogs in the rain), but because my dogs are not afraid of the rain.

    I can’t be certain, but I suspect that the reason my dogs are not afraid of the rain is because they have walked with me at the dog park, rain or shine. They have never balked at going out in the rain at home either (unless it is a serious downpour). Do you think it’s because I am usually out there with them? I can’t imagine we are the only ones to walk in the rain. Hmmm..
    Loved the science information. Actually, quite fascinating!


  14. *sigh* I suppose it is finally time for me to voice my opinion. All it took was a post about science to entice me to speak.

    I would bring a couple points to this discussion, firstly is in not necessarily about amplitude of the wavelength, but directionality. The example used of a parabolic mirror is slightly wrong, as that applies to a concave surface, while a raindrop is convex. This will create a scattering effect as opposed to a convergence one (focussing). For a good visual example, think of a prism. Light hits the prism and is scattered into its various wavelengths due to the amount of diffraction occurring, creating the rainbow display we all know.

    Now take this concept and apply it to our senses. This scattering would have a distinct effect on both vision and hearing. In the case of audio, we can imagine any sounds created bouncing around like a pinball in a machine (or a red disc going down a board for those of you who watched a certain day-time game show), before reaching the dogs ears. This isn’t just the normal sounds of cars and treats hitting the floor, but the combination of each individual drop hitting the ground as well, making for quite a confused jumble of noise. This is further combined with the Doppler effect being created by each individual drop as it falls at terminal velocity, but that is getting a little too technical.

    I would also like to note the scattering effect would have on the visual field of the dog. There is a great deal of research that has been done into dog vision, but to summarize for the point of this post, most large muzzled dogs have vision that focuses on peripheral vision and “movement” vision. Meaning, they have a harder time with object detail, but have ease with object attention. Basically, they see movement more than an object. Now combine an animal whose eyesight relies on taking it all moving objects within the visual field and throw thousands of tiny moving objects into it, visual overload.

    Now for a final point that I would like to make, pressure. It was accurately pointed out above that dogs may react to the barometric pressure differential during a storm, especially in any threshold where the pressure would be in flux (doorways). This may or may not affect your dog, all depends on the animal, but the easiest way to test whether your dog is being affected by the pressure related to the storm is whether the same thing happens in a vehicle. A moving vehicle creates more pressure deviation than any storm, especially with a window cracked open, so if they are nervous in the car and during a rain storm, it is likely the pressure (or motion sickness, but that another story).

    Well, there it is. After much prompting and several jabs at my expense, I have spoken. I hope you enjoyed my science rant, abridged as it may be (trust me). Aren’t you glad you don’t have to listen to these rambles every day?


  15. Dexter, the dog who cavorts in mud puddles and loves to swim HATES to go out when it rains. I have to leash him up to make him go out for a pee. Jersey isn’t thrilled, but after a little urging will go out on her own. Go figure.


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