Noise phobia in dogs is a common problem that many dog owners are concerned about. Dogs with sensitivity to noises may show mild to severe signs of distress. That said, a dog with noise phobias can experience improvements that make life a lot easier in noisy situations.
Signs of anxiety from loud sounds can include:
- Whining or vocalizing
- Seeking shelter or fleeing
- Separation anxiety
- Destructive behavior (such as chewing furniture)
- Urinating or defecating
- Unusual body language
- You might notice your dog barking excessively
Some dogs seem to only get triggered by specific noises (thunderstorms, fireworks, nearby gunshots, or engines backfiring). In other cases, a wide variety of noises might trigger certain dogs into a panic. Sounds as subtle as a floorboard creaking or the garage door opening commonly trigger some dogs.
The causes for these behaviors in dogs are not entirely understood. What we do know is that anxiety-related behaviors such as separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, and noise phobia have a high correlation. Research shows that a dog that has one of these conditions is more likely to have one of the others.
Research also suggests that this condition can be a learned response or the product of brain imbalances similar to some anxiety disorders in humans.
If your canine is afraid of loud sounds, here are 5 things you can do to help:
1. Anticipate Dog-Triggering Sounds
One of the most powerful ways to help your dog cope with the fear of noises is to learn the precise sounds that make her anxious and try to anticipate them. For example, if she is afraid of fireworks, then you know she may need some extra support on the 4th of July.
If it is thunderstorms that get your dog in a tizzy, then keeping an eye on the weather during the summer is a good idea.
Of course, it is not always possible to know when the neighbor’s motorcycle is going to backfire, so advanced notice isn’t always possible. However, predicting a potentially triggering situation gives you the advantage of managing the environment to make sure that your dog will at least be safe in the event that he panics.
2. Provide Shelter
Many dogs with a chronic fear of noise will benefit from having a hard-sided crate (or a wire crate with a blanket laid over it) to retreat to when triggered. If your dog likes to run under the kitchen table during a thunderstorm, for example, then investing in a crate might give her some extra security during storms.
Although it may be alarming to see that your dog is scared, it is frankly one of the best responses to loud noises (other than no response!). This means your dog is doing what he needs to do to calm down on his own...and it sure beats tearing up the furniture or running around in a panic.
3. Calm Yourself Down
Of course, it is very difficult, even traumatic, to see your faithful companion in such distress.
However, it is critical that you work to bring your own emotional reaction to one of calm and confidence. Your pup is looking to you for signals. Your concern for her is very likely to be understood as fear for the situation, further deepening her sense that the situation is unsafe.
While it is tempting to coddle a dog who is experiencing fear of loud noises, the instinct to comfort can be easily overdone. It can be internalized as a form of reward for the anxious behavior, sending your companion the signal that the panic response is appropriate.
While a few pets and a reassuring tone are in order, try your best to ignore the behavior as long as your dog is not in danger (such as chewing up electrical cords or digging at the drywall in a desperate escape attempt).
Note as well that if your gut tells you that your dog needs the help of an animal behavior professional, chances are, he does. Follow your instincts and find a certified animal behaviorist to help your dog get to a better place with its noise phobias.
4. Redirect Your Dog’s Attention
Sometimes, particularly in mild to moderate cases of noise phobia in dogs, you can distract your dog with something it really loves such as an extra special treat, a game of tug or fetch or running through some of its favorite tricks.
If you are able to capture your dog’s attention and get its mind on something else, all the while rewarding it for behavior other than fear, then this is the ideal situation. Not only are you helping your dog feel better in the moment, but you are also “reprogramming” the emotional response during the noise itself.
In fact, many dog trainers will use recordings of noises (or play music) set at a very low volume at first with this kind of redirection training. Gradually increasing the volume, the redirection work goes on with plenty of rewards.
This can desensitize a dog in relation to a specific noise trigger, although it often takes months to fully remove the fear responses, and even then it can come back unexpectedly.
At their root, noise phobias in dogs are related to anxiety around a trigger. Because it can have a calming effect, CBD oil may help complement behavior modification programs for dog anxiety and dogs with phobias.
In fact, many dog owners and dog trainers alike have found that a few drops within an hour of triggering situations can be especially helpful in keeping dogs calm in the presence of noise triggers. Others prefer to use CBD oil as a safe daily addition for overall pet health given the various potential health benefits of this natural product and have noticed that their dogs seem less nervous in general.
Click here to learn more about Lily, a nervous Border Collie who saw long-term improvement with both Lolahemp and some reinforcement-based training.