How Can I Get My Dog Not to Fear Loud Noises?

by Nora Zavalczki
The noises of fireworks may frighten canines.

The noises of fireworks may frighten canines.

Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Fear in dogs may be triggered by a number of factors including the presence of foreign people, new dogs or loud noises. When a dog is afraid of something, it displays a few signs, such as freezing, tucked tail, hiding behavior, attempt to escape, barking or even panic attacks. Loud noises including fireworks, sirens, thunders, loud music or even the doorbell may cause fear in canines. The fear stems from an unpleasant past event the dog links to noise or the fact that the dog is not familiar with the sound. Certain dog breeds are more fearful than others.

Step 1

Create a hiding place for your dog in a quiet area, such as the basement or in a closet, where your pet feels safe. Take your dog to the safe place as soon as the noises start and stay with your pet. This technique is effective especially if your dog tends to run for the door or hide when exposed to noises.

Step 2

Make a monotonous noise your dog is used to, such as starting a computer game, a fan or pressing on a squeaky toy. The sound should distract the dog and to a certain extent, cover the outside noise.

Step 3

Distract your dog with a treat or games, so that the dog doesn't pay more attention to the noises. This technique is known as counter conditioning. The dog may associate the positive experience (the treat) with the negative one (the noise) and believe that the noise announces the treat. Counter conditioning may work if your pet's reaction is mild.

Step 4

Desensitize your pet after identifying the triggering noise. The desensitizing sessions aim at exposing the pet to the triggering factor, first for short amounts of time. Use treats or verbal praises when the dog displays the desired behavior when exposed to noise. As the dog develops tolerance to the noise, the amount of time and the intensity of the noise are increased. At the end of the desensitization period, the dog should tolerate the noises it used to fear.

Step 5

Administer medication if your dog's reaction cannot be controlled otherwise. Veterinarians prescribe benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety drugs, for milder reactions. Fluoxetine or clomipramine may be needed in severe cases.

Items You Will Need

  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Tranquillizers
  • Cotton balls
  • Pheromone diffusers

Tips

  • Insert cotton balls in your dog's ears prior to fireworks or thunders. These diminish the noise and the dog's reaction.
  • Place pheromone diffusers in the your dog's safe place, which have a calming effect.

Warnings

  • Never punish your dog if it displays fear or if it becomes aggressive due to fear. The punishment can only worsen the dog's condition.
  • If your dog tends to be aggressive when afraid, use a muzzle while you desensitize it.
  • Certain dogs run when they sense fear and they are difficult to control with regular commands. Keep your dog on a leash or shut doors, to ensure your dog doesn't escape.
  • The tranquilizers may affect your dog's behavior, so they should be only used as a last-resort solution.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

About the Author

Based in Toronto, Nora Zavalczki is a freelance writer who has been writing since 2007 on a variety of topics including languages, pet training and health, plastic surgery, fitness, travel and arts and crafts. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been published both on and offline in such sources as the International Educator, Learn Faster and Triple1.

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