What is Dog Noise Phobia, and How Can You Help Your Dog? - Simply For Dogs
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What is Dog Noise Phobia, and How Can You Help Your Dog?

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With Independence Day just around the corner, many homeowners are preparing for a few nights spent coddling their dog when the fireworks start going off. If your dog has an aversion to loud thunder, fireworks, or even loud cars and other extremely loud noises, they may have what is known as noise phobia. This goes beyond just being spooked by an unexpected sound. A dog with noise phobia will be entirely shaken by a loud noise, looking for a place to hide, and seeming to be frightened for long after the noise has stopped.

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This isn’t a life or death situation, but it is pretty heartbreaking. Imagine being a dog, with their sensitive hearing, having no idea what makes July 4th different from any other day, and then suddenly it sounds like the house is caving in on you. That seems like a scary thing to go through, and so many dog owners want to help. In addition, some dogs can hurt themselves in their panic to escape a loud noise, so it could be a medical necessity to help treat this phobia.

In this article, we’ll talk about why dogs have noise phobia, what it is that humans are doing that isn’t helping, some things that can help, and how to recognize this phobia in your dog.

Why Do Dogs Have Noise Phobia?

In order to navigate the world, dogs rely more on their smell and hearing than they do their eyesight. It’s hard for us to understand because we rely so heavily on eyesight, but dogs hear things much more intensely than we do. They can hear frequencies that we can’t, and at much louder volumes than we do. So sometimes, being afraid of a loud noise could genuinely just be the fact that the noise is so loud to them that it sounds catastrophic. It may be the equivalent of hearing a significant car accident happen right outside your home – that would definitely make you anxious!

Another reason that a dog may have noise phobia is past trauma. If a dog was ever involved in a car accident, for example, they may have become frightened of loud noises.

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What Are the Signs of Noise Phobia?

For something to be considered a phobia, it has gone beyond just making the dog a little anxious. When a phobia is triggered, it causes panic. You’ll see symptoms such as:

  • Excessive panting
  • Shivering or trembling
  • Pacing
  • Becoming immobile
  • Cowering with their tail tucked and ears flat
  • Becoming extremely hyper
  • Becoming very clingy
  • Hiding in a tranquil place and cowering from people
  • Chewing
  • Scratching or digging
  • Attempting to escape by jumping at the doors and windows

As you can see, it can cause a lot of different things, and every dog will react a little differently. The biggest thing to do is to watch for a change in your dog’s behavior. If your ordinarily loving dog suddenly wants to hide, or your dog that usually prefers his bed suddenly won’t leave your lap, it’s a sign that they are in distress.

These are the signs that we see on the outside. Keep in mind that your dog is experiencing symptoms on the inside as well, such as increased heart rate, sensitivity to noises and light, having a dry mouth, and nausea.

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How Do We Make Noise Phobia Worse?

Unfortunately, one thing that most people do right off the bat when they see their dog acting this way is the wrong thing to do. The first instinct of most humans is to coddle their dog. They recognize that their dog is sitting in their lap, shivering and whining, and they begin to cuddle him and say things like “Oh don’t be scared buddy! It’s just some big scary thunder! You’ll be okay right here with mommy. You don’t like that scary thunder, huh?” And so on. People often hand out treats to calm their dog down. The dog hears the coddling in your voice, and what happens is that you begin to unintentionally train them. They learn that if they panic during a loud noise, you give them lots of attention and praise. They begin to associate the behavior of panicking with getting attention and maybe even food – so they won’t precisely be motivated to stop panicking in the future.

Instead, what you want to do is to act as normally as possible. The goal is to get your dog to realize that everything is just fine. If you are behaving normally, they may realize that there is nothing to fear, and can settle down. So try to keep your voice and actions very relaxed. You can cuddle your dog, of course, but don’t make a big deal out of it – just pet him as you usually would and act casually. Play a game with him if you want, or just chill out together.

If your dog is having noise phobia to sounds that will be around often, like the vacuum cleaner, the best thing to do is to try to desensitize them. Get them used to the sound a little at a time by having the vacuum running for just a minute or two every day, slowly adding on more minutes, and then adding movement, and so on. When your dog begins to act more naturally and calmly around the noise, that is when you give them the treat as the reward. For things like thunder, you can try playing thunder soundtracks that you slowly increase the volume on over a period of many weeks or months. Once again, don’t reward your dog until they are acting more or less calm around the noise.

The worst thing you can do to make this issue worse is to punish your dog when they act panicked due to noise. If you yell at your dog or make him get off you when he’s clingy, he’ll just panic more. The loud noise, the panic he’s already feeling, and then the rejection from you, will make him remember events with loud noises at times when he was punished – and that will make him even more anxious in the future.

Treating Noise Phobia

Beyond helping your dog get used to the noises, there are some ways to treat noise phobia. Some of these are things you can try yourself, but others will require a trip to the vet or an animal behavior specialist.

  • Medications: Some vets will prescribe an anti-anxiety medication that can be given to dogs when there will be a loud event. For example, if you know it’s about to thunderstorm soon, or it’s July 4th and you know the fireworks will be starting soon, you can give your dog a canine version of Xanax, and it will help them to be relaxed during the event. This is typically just something that is used as needed.
  • Chew Toys: For some dogs, anxiety brings about a lot of excess energy. They feel the need to pace, dig at the carpet, chew on things, scratch themselves, or just run around a lot. For this type of dog, a really good chew toythat only comes out during this type of panic is a good idea to have on hand. Choose something that will withstand aggressive use, and that will keep their attention based on what you know they like. Get a meat-flavored chew toy, for example, if you know they will be distracted by the scent and taste.

 

  • A Safe Space: In their deepest ancestral instincts, dogs do still feel the drive to create and protect a den, just like wolves do in the wild. A safe space that is all their own can make a dog feel safe and protected. This is why kennel training is such a good idea in general, but for dogs with phobias, it’s even more critical. In their kennel, dogs know that this is their safe place where they are allowed to defend their territory. If you choose the right size, your dog will feel like they have a snuggly cave that is just the right size to be a hiding place but isn’t claustrophobic. Add a dog bed, comfortable blankets, chew toys, and a small amount of water, and your dog has a home they can retreat to when they are afraid.

 

  • Massage: This may seem a little silly, but just as massage can help people feel less anxious, it can also help dogs. The reason is that it helps to relax muscles, which tense and then shiver during a panic attack. If you can contribute to ease the tension, you may be able to help your dog relax a bit.
  • Training: Another thing to consider is training your dog to settle down when you give them a command (such as “settle”). This is something that will take a lot of time to teach, but if you can teach them to lay down or go to their kennel immediately, it can help them get out of their panic mode and relaxing.
  • Ear Muffs: There are dog earmuffs that you can try to use to block out noise. If your dog can’t have medication, or you prefer not to use it, they make soft head wraps as well as actual ear muffs that help block noise. The trick is usually getting your dog to leave the head wrap or ear muffs on.

 

  • Thunder shirts: Thunder shirts are tightly fitted vests for dogs that help them feel less anxiety during storms, fireworks, and other anxiety-inducing events. The gentle compression helps to prevent muscle tension and can make a dog feel like they are being cuddled.
  • Pheromone Collar: Finally, there are collarsthat emit an artificial version of the pheromone that is emitted by mother dogs around their babies. Dogs associate this pheromone with feelings of comfort and safety, so it may help them to avoid feeling anxious during storms. These are often used for training dogs that have previously been abused or were never properly socialized as well.

Breeds Prone to Noise Phobia

All dogs can suffer trauma or have irrational fears of noise. However, trauma aside, there do seem to be certain breeds that are more prone to noise phobia than others. If you have recently adopted a dog and this is your first 4th of July together, you may not even be aware of how they will act around fireworks. Consider keeping a closer eye than usual on your dog if they are one of these breeds:

  • German Shepherd
  • Border Collie
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Shetland Sheepdog

While you may expect a tiny dog like a Chihuahua to be scared of big noises, it seems to be herding dogs that experience this phobia the most often. This could be something to do with the lineage of these dogs – there’s a theory that noise phobia is inherited. Perhaps somewhere along the line, a shepherding dog developed this fear and has been passing it down ever since.

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Benebone Wishbone Durable Dog Chew Toy for Aggressive Chewers, Made in USA, Medium, Real Bacon Flavor
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Last update on 2018-07-20 at 15:25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Final Word

Thankfully for most of us, the fireworks are over after a day or two of celebration, and your dog can get back to being a dog. But if you are concerned about how they will react, one final thing you could do is to simply leave the area for the 4th and go to a place where there won’t be fireworks. That can be hard to manage, but it’s not entirely impossible to find a city that doesn’t allow fireworks in the residential neighborhoods. Consider taking your dog for a long walk in one of these areas, so they are nice and worn out before heading back home – they can sleep while the neighbors near you celebrate.

These techniques can help you give your dog a more comfortable life if they do suffer from this phobia. With some training and lots of patience, this is something that can be cured in many cases.

Related Content:

Why is Your Dog Making Weird Noises?
5 Ways to Stop Dog Barking
What is Your Dog Trying to Say?
When One Barks, They All Bark – Dealing With Barking in a Multi-Dog Household

Sources:

https://www.vetbabble.com/dogs/dog-noise-phobias/

https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/scary-sounds-understanding-noise-phobia-dogs?page=3

https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/02/01/how-to-help-a-dog-with-noise-phobia.aspx

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