Ways To Help Your Dog’s Fear Of Loud Sounds

With festivals just around the corner, sounds of drums, loud music and fireworks popping up all over; some dogs have every reason to hide. Unfortunately for a dog that is afraid of noise, no amount of explaining or consoling will help. Noise Anxiety is a very common problem for dogs across the country. The estimates vary, but somewhere between 5 million and 15 million dogs suffer from noise anxiety severe enough for their owners to seek help.

Signs Of Fear

Noise anxiety can exhibit many symptoms and severity levels. On the less extreme end of the spectrum, a fear of loud sounds may just cause some shaking and clinging to their pet parent. On the other extreme, loud sounds may cause panicked running, destructive chewing, defecating indoors, or even trying to escape out of a  window! Some pet parents aren’t even aware that a negative behavior they are seeing is actually caused by noise anxiety. For example, does your dog get upset when you take photographs using a flash? That may be noise anxiety! The flash may remind your dog of lightning and she becomes frightened that a storm may be coming.

Causes

Determining what caused your dog’s noise anxiety may be difficult to pinpoint, if not impossible. If you’re lucky, you may be able to trace the start of your dog’s anxiety to a traumatic incident such as being too close to a fireworks show or too close to a lightning strike and its subsequent thunder clap. But more than likely, it won’t be anything that obvious. Your dog may have a genetic predisposition for noise anxiety. Studies have shown that some breeds, such as Collies, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, have a higher incidence of noise anxiety. For some dogs, noise anxiety gradually appears and worsens as they age for no apparent reason. For other dogs, it appears as a puppy and stays with them. Also if the puppies are not exposed to different sounds from a young age they are most likely to develop anxiety depending on their new pet parents responses to their fears.

One thing that most Canine Behaviorists agree on is that when it comes to noise anxiety, you don’t want to pet, cuddle, or otherwise console the dog when she’s exhibiting symptoms. Your dog will most likely interpret your behavior as, “You see, I do have something to be worried about!” It’s important for the people around the dog to behave normally during events that trigger the dog’s anxiety. In fact, a possible cause for noise anxiety in the first place is her owner’s nervousness or fear of some kind of noise. Most dogs are very sensitive to their owners’ moods. If her owner has a fear of thunder, she may give her owner the benefit of the doubt!

How To Handle Noise Anxiety

  • Change The Dog’s Environment: These are the “common sense” simple things to try, if feasible for your circumstances. Try creating a safe haven for your dog (such as a blanket-covered crate) or finding a location that will reduce the noise level. Try turning on music or the television to help mask the sound of the problem noise. If you know an event is coming (e.g. festival processions, thunderstorm or fireworks), try giving your dog a lot of exercise beforehand. None of the above typically shows dramatic results, but they can help to reduce symptoms.
  • Behavior Modification: Desensitization is the most common behavior modification tried for noise anxiety. In a nutshell, in a controlled environment, you begin by exposing your dog to a low level of the noise that bothers her. As she gets accustomed to it, you increase the levels louder and louder over time until she learns to tolerate the real deal.
  • Medications: If your dog’s anxiety is serious enough, there are a variety of prescription medications that your veterinarian may suggest. Some are administered on a regular basis for the life of the dog. Some are given only at the time of an anxiety event. Sometimes a combination of drugs are used. If you go this route, make sure you ask your vet about any potential risks and side effects with the drugs you’re considering.
  • Pheromone Replication:  Several products on the market have captured the properties of the natural pheromones a mother dog releases to calm and reassure her pups is another option to consider.

If your pup/dog is still scared, a Canine Behaviorist is your next step!!.  As a Canine Behaviorist i would be able to guide you in training the dog to not react to loud sounds and give you tips on how to handle the dog in such situations.

73 thoughts on “Ways To Help Your Dog’s Fear Of Loud Sounds

  1. Very “on time” blog information …. With festivities starting soon important to shed light on the fears poor pups go through…understanding the silent gestures…apt to the point and as always an informative wrote up…

  2. Can this be done for cats? I have two of them. Both are with me since they were 3 to 4 weeks old. One can tolerate loud noise but the other one is too timid. I need to know if I can do anything to make her normal during the festivals coz thats when she panics, hises herslef and and dont eat untill the noise stops.

  3. We have a mini poodle that is very sensitive to loud noises. We’ve been working with him. We rehomed him, but he’s been with us for four years now and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. I feel bad when we leave him home and take our other dog.

    • some dogs just cant be helped because the fear of loud noises is too deeply ingrained in them. However keep working with her and she will get better to a certain extent

    • Yes thats the technique i recommend too however one of our readers has informed me about a CD called a dogs ear which also helps

  4. Great tips to help out dogs afraid of loud noises. It’s definitely something that pet parents need to think about. Thank you!

  5. During fireworks or thunder, I put the television a bit louder or the radio. It really helps Charlie!! I tried Adaptil when Charlie just moved in, which I think helped a little. It’s no miracle, but it never hurts to try!

  6. Excellent post, and so glad you mentioned the point about cuddling them, reinforcing their belief there is something to fear. One thing you may want to look into is a CD called Through a Dog’s Ear. It’s excellent for conditions like dementia, separation anxiety, stress in shelter environments. The key is to have your dog listen to it when they’re in a relaxed state. The theory is in the future, they’ll remember the feelings of calm and hearing the music will invoke that state again. It’s helped my dog a lot, that’s my only connection to it!!

    • Yes as a behaviorist i suggest this method but will look for the CD called a dogs ear because in India here i just ask them to make a sound repetitive cd to use. Thank you for the tip 🙂

  7. Great post on a very important topic! I hadn’t thought about a camera flash being a problem! Gremlin is afraid of storms and fireworks, but is starting to come around. We praise him for coming around but ignore him when he’s afraid and attempting to hide.

  8. Growing up I had a dog that was petrified of thunder storms! She would try and hide in a closet. Now Miss Edie is oblivious to storms – thank goodness! I think some of it may have to do with never making a big deal out of the storms as they happened so she didn’t think there was anything to fear.

    • Bingo, i never worried with Prince because he was never scared but have to work on my rescued birds because they frighten easily

  9. These are all great tips of how to handle noise anxiety with dogs. I haven’t noticed any signs of noise anxiety for Simba, but will definitely keep this in mind!

  10. Our Lyla is extremely sensitive and scared of storms, especially when there is lightening and thunder. Living in the USA Midwest, tornado alley we have storms regularly. We did use medications for awhile but her system got used to them and now they no longer help. I do not want her on stronger medications so we just do our best to live life naturally. As you recommended, act like nothing is wrong. While this does not help her entirely, it does help her enough that I no longer fear she will have a little puppy heart attack!
    It is sad when we can’t console our furry friends. Lyla can sense the storms before they are even happening.
    Great advice you have provided.

    • Teaching your dog to not be afraid is a little difficult and i agree with you too much medication could have side effects however have you tried Bach Remedies the work beautifully on animals because they act on an emotional level. Also no side effects and easy to administer

  11. Treating noise phobia in dogs is one of the toughest behaviors to work with, particularly if those dogs are also afraid of storms. Thanks for sharing some tips.

  12. Layla is afraid of fireworks especially but what worked with her during the 4th of July was me having a jazz station on for music and I made her a bed in the shower where its dark and cozy, she loved it and went to sleep there when she started getting scared. I put water and food there too plus one of her favorite toys and she settled down and was ok. So now I keep the bed there for her whenever she feels uncomfortable.

  13. My mom’s dog is afraid of thunder because my mom is afraid of it. When he was a puppy and a storm would start, my mom would grab him and go in the hallway with him. He picked up on her fear. They now use a thundershirt for him and let him go in the back bedroom with my dad.

    • That’s why they say like owner like dog. In this case the dog learned her fear for thunder from your mom. Have heard about those thunder shirts i know of a basset hound that uses it and he is much better

    • Thank you, my Prince was also never bothered by them have to figure out a way though how my rescued birds can get used to it

    • Yes, we have a festival here called Diwali in India here where it really gets worse with fire crackers being burst at odd hours all throughout the day not just a nusciance for dogs but old and young infants too

  14. My Mom’s dog have a fear of thunder, its funny coz he really sneak under our bed, and sometimes he is shaking. We felt pity of him (actually the thunder wasnt that strong) so we just let him curl next to our legs to give him warm which we know he loves it.

    • Try getting him the thundershirt that really comforts dogs when they are distressed another remedy to try is Bach Flower remedies that act on an emotional level and have no side effects

  15. My dog is very old now and sadly practically dead. We have to shout very loud just to get him to hear but when he was younger he was terrified of loud noises, especially thunder and fireworks. NYE was a disaster and we could never go out to parties as we had to stay home and make sure he didn’t freak out and destroy the place while we were out.

    • That is really traumatic for your dog but i guess in his case getting old and not having his ability hear as much has worked as a boon in his case

  16. noise , whether loud or not isnt cool for animals, just as we humans protect ourselves from unnecessary sounds, same should be said and done for animals.

  17. This was such a great read. I have read many posts about pets and dogs but this pretty different and better. Good work. The mention about cuddling is amazing, not many people think of that.

  18. Oh! They do need special care and handling during those loud noisy times.
    Very good helpful tips. I don’t have a dog but I have heard my friend cribbing about this same problem.

  19. Thank you for sharing. We have a lot of pet dogs and whenever they have noise anxiety, we just hug them and whisper “it is okay”. It works most of the time. When an individual is scared, the only thing they need to soothe them is comfort from another individual. Same thing for pets. 😉

    xoxo, G
    http://moreliketwins.com

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