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Managing Fear

Helping Your Dog Deal with Scary Noises

Dogs can develop a fear of loud noises at any age. Even if thunderstorms never bothered your dog in the past, fear and unease can mysteriously occur when you least expect it. Sometimes the source of your dog’s newfound fear isn’t a surprise – like a neighbor setting off firecrackers close by or being caught outside during a thunderstorm.

dog under tableSigns that your dog may be afraid of loud noises include:

  • Destructive behavior
  • Trembling or whining
  • Trying to escape or hide
  • Pacing, restlessness, or panting
  • Cowering, wide eyes, or flattened ears

When you’re working with a dog who’s afraid, it’s critical that you don’t soothe or coddle them. Since your dog looks to you for guidance, this type of behavior can make them think you’re also scared or that you’re rewarding them for their fear. Instead of rushing to pet or console your dog, try to behave normally and talk to them in a confident voice.

Additional strategies for calming a dog who’s afraid of loud noises include:

  • Create a safe space. Don’t force your dog into their crate or make them feel punished for being scared, create a special place they can go when they’re nervous. This spot might be under your bed, an area of the basement, or a quiet corner in your bathroom. Encourage your dog to spend time there freely by offering them treats, dog food, or toys.
  • The power of distraction. When you notice your dog growing nervous, try distracting them with a game of fetch or some basic obedience training. If your dog continues to act fearful, discontinue your distraction attempts, or you may accidentally reinforce their fear response.
  • Increase their comfort. ThunderShirt® jackets and Adaptil® pheromones are medication-free alternatives to easing your dog’s anxiety. Your dog can wear a ThunderShirt safely for extended periods of time — even overnight. Calming pheromones are either diffused in the air, worn on a collar, or applied to a ThunderShirt; WaggingTails diffuses pheromones throughout the facility to create a relaxing environment for the dogs in their care. ThunderShirts and Adaptil pheromones are available for purchase at your favorite pet store or online.
  • Exposure therapy. In some cases, you can desensitize your dog to scary sounds. This approach is a slow process that involves exposing your dog to low levels of the noise that frightens them. As they become comfortable with the sound, you can gradually increase its volume over time.

Every dog is different, so it might take some experimentation until you find the perfect strategy to help yours feel more comfortable with loud noises. Remember to work closely with your veterinarian who can make additional suggestions to ease your dog’s fears, including over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Do you have a dog who’s afraid of loud sounds? How do you keep them calm?

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