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Thunder, Fireworks, Electronic Beeps & Other Strange Sounds

  • Heidi

Managing Noise Phobias in Dogs

Noise phobias can develop at any age, slowly over time, or seemingly out of nowhere. Regardless, they’re an important issue that you shouldn’t ignore.

First, rest easy. It’s very common for dogs fear certain sounds – like thunder and fireworks – and there’s nothing you did wrong as a pet parent. Instead, it’s a completely natural response for an animal when they hear something they don’t understand or were frightened by in the past.

However, noise phobias can vary in severity from dog to dog. While one dog may shake a bit, another can panic and even run away or jump through glass windows in an effort to escape.

Signs of a noise phobia can include:

  • Whining or trembling
  • Destructive behavior
  • Panting or drooling
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Cowering
  • Flattened ears or wide eyes, including “whale eye” (where you can see the whites)

If you notice signs of distress when your dog hears certain sounds, it’s important to pay attention. Noise phobias can worsen over time, so it’s essential to find ways to help them cope and keep them safe.

Fortunately, there are lots of places to start.

Provide Reassurance

The easiest place to start is by giving your dog calm comfort if they seem afraid. After all, you’re there to provide guidance and security, and they’re telling you they’re scared!

However, it’s crucial to remain calm and confident during these interactions. Talk to them in a normal voice. You can even try incorporating the “Mr. Rogers Hack” to explain what’s happening, like, “Yes, that’s thunder. It’s very loud.” Try some calming massage, reassuring pets, or sit with them on the couch or floor.

NOTE: Avoid coddling your pup during these interactions, repeatedly chanting, “It’s okay,” and excessive rubbing or petting. These actions can unintentionally reward fearful behavior – or leave them thinking you’re afraid, too.

Create a Safe Space

All dogs can benefit from a safe space, even if they never seem afraid. So, work to create one for your dog in everyday situations.

In an ideal world, this should be in a place where you can manage stimulation. For instance, consider using an interior room, bathroom, or basement where you can close the curtains or mask sounds by turning on a television, radio, or a loud fan.

Encourage your dog to spend time in this peaceful haven so it makes them feel safe and cozy. Want to amp up the positive vibes? Don’t forget to give them plenty of goodies when they’re in this spot and a comfy bed they can retreat to.

If your dog seems afraid and refuses to go into their safe space, even if it’s their crate, don’t force them. This can make them think they’re being punished and cause negative associations with the area.

Try Distraction

Does your dog seem nervous? Restless? Fixated on the noise? Try to distract them with a playful romp, a yummy frozen Kong, licky mat, some basic training, or nose work.

If you can refocus their attention in these moments, it can help create a positive association with the sound and give them greater confidence moving forward.

However, if your dog won’t take any treats or high-reward food items, don’t force them. Dogs often refuse these items when very afraid because fear shuts down appetite.

Experiment with Extras

If you have a dog with noise phobias, there’s a lot of help out there these days. Popular options include:

  • ThunderShirt® garments
  • Adaptil® and Thunderease® pheromone collars and diffusers
  • Mutt Muffs to reduce sounds
  • ThunderCap® calming caps to reduce visual stimulation
  • Fans, white noise machines, and relaxing dog music

There are also numerous products on the market that can help take the edge off in noisy situations, from daily supplements to as-needed chews. Talk to your vet to see which could be the best option for your dog.

Talk To Your Vet

Finally, don’t forget to bring your vet into the conversation. They can offer personalized guidance on handling your dog’s noise phobia, including desensitizing them to the sound and giving them prescription or over-the-counter medications.

It can take some trial and error to find the perfect strategy to help a dog with a noise phobia. But with the right tools and a vet you can trust, you can ease your dog’s fear in no time.

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