Dogs and loud noises
Some dogs can get very nervous when there are loud noises such as thunder or fireworks. These two types of noise are usually the ones that cause the most fear because your dog does not know where the noise is coming from. However, there are important things you can do to help alleviate and even stop the fear altogether, especially if you work on this from a young age.
Some signs you might see if your dog is very frightened
- Curling themselves into a ball and hiding in small dark places
- Making crying noises or barking
- Shaking or trembling
- Become very needy and overly attached to you.
- If they get really scared, your dog might try and jump out or break through a window, door or fence to try and get away (remember they don’t know where the noise is coming from). This is a stage you really don’t want to let your puppy/ dog get to as they can get injured due to behaving erratically.
What to do if you have a puppy/ dog that is scared by loud noises
- Start young! Any behaviour you want your adult dog to have start when they are a pup, it is much harder to change an ingrained habit or phobia.
- Dogs and pups naturally want to retreat to a small place where they feel more comfortable, recognise where this is if they have chosen one already and allow them access to it. If they don’t have a chosen spot create one for them. Make it nice and cosy for them to help them settle, and make sure they have access to this safe place if you are not home as well. This will then give them a location to self soothe rather than try and run away to get away from this unpredictable noise.
- Crate training from a young age is perfect for this! If your dog is crate trained you can make them nice and cosy in there until the noise passes, and your dog will feel much more secure. Just be mindful to keep the door open in this instance as anxiety can act in unpredictable ways, and we don’t want your dog suddenly deciding they don’t want to be in the crate, as coupled with extreme anxiety, they may hurt themselves trying to get out.
- Get your dog used to the tv or radio being on louder, so during times of unpredictable loud noises like this you can turn on the radio or television loud enough, so your dog can’t hear the noises outside.
- Although it’s tempting to pick up your scared dog or cuddle them lots and tell them everything is okay, this actually has the exact opposite effect on them long term. Whilst you may help them initially you are reinforcing to them there is a reason to be scared instead, just keep doing all the things you would normally do with them and ignore the problematic noise, your dog will then follow your behaviour.
To try and resolve the problem make storm time fun time. Help your dog associate the loud noises with fun things they love. Throw ball, take them for a drive, whatever it is your dog loves, try and turn the association around that loud noise equals something scary, instead loud noise means they get to do something fun!
- Use a pheromone dispensing product like Adaptil. We stock these in clinic and can order them in if we are out of stock. Adaptil mimics a mother dog’s pheromones and assists in calming your dog. Adaptil comes in a collar and spray or as a plug in diffuser that lasts for about 30 days.
- Try to prevent escapades before they happen! Make sure all doors and windows are closed or secure, and if your dog is kept outside make sure the gates and fence are locked and secured and there are no places they can dig out in a frenzy.
- If you know the fireworks or storms are coming in advance perhaps put your dog in a safer environment like a garage or make sure they have access to their favourite safe place until the noise is over.
- If they are allowed inside, bring them in before the storm (so you are not accidently reinforcing the behaviour remember with training and reward timing is everything). Remember your dog is your best friend so let your dog stay near you so they can feel safe, but don’t molly coddle them J
WHAT IF NONE OF THIS WORKS?
If you have persisted with all the above (it can and will take time if the dog has had this phobia for a while), a trip to the vet may be in order to see if there are any sedative options available for you. If you and your vet decide to go down this route, depending on the medication it has to be given at the right time for it to work properly. Most medications that help with these noise phobias only work before the dog has become too anxious, so being able to predict the storm or fireworks coming is key, to get the medication schedule right.