How to Help Your Dog Cope with Scary Noises

 

We are well into the season of thunder storms and fireworks.  If you have a dog that is afraid of loud noises their fear can take much of the fun out of summer.  An anxious dog may cower, salivate, pace, hide, howl or even destroy furniture during storms. Finding ways to calm them can be difficult.

Fear is a normal response. It is what keeps us from being run over by a car or falling off a cliff.  In those cases fear acts as an adaptive response that aids in survival.  However, if fear keeps us from performing everyday tasks it is not normal. 

No one really knows for certain why some dogs become fearful and others do not.  Some breeds appear to be more prone to developing   phobias.  In other cases a past traumatic event may be linked to specific noises and act as a fear inducing stimuli.

What are some of the things you can do to help your dog cope with fearful situations?

1)    First, determine if your dog is afraid of the sounds or if there are other factors that comes into play.  Dogs with storm phobias may be reacting to stimuli such as the flashing lightning, static in the air, rainfall or the wind.

  • Try placing your dog a room without windows. Does this reduce anxiety?
  • Now try placing foam earplugs or cotton in your dog’s ears . If this seems to help the problem is more likely noise related.

 2)    Find a safe place for your dog.

  • Where does your dog gravitate when frightened?  Make sure that area is accessible during a storm or scary event.  It could be the basement, bathroom or under the bed. Do not put your dog in a crate unless that is their safe place.  Otherwise they could be injured trying to escape.

 3)    Try adding in white noise.  This could be music or even the television as long as it helps distract and/or cover up other scary sounds. Do not make it so loud that it becomes yet another source of anxiety for your pet.

4)    Try a thunder shirt.  These are wraps that are similar to a swaddling wrap that is used on infants. Your dog has complete freedom of movement but the pressure provides relief and comfort..

5)    Distract your dog with something pleasurable.  That may be  a favorite toy or activity.  In cases of mild anxiety this may provide relief.

6)    Dog Appeasement Pheromone (DAP) is a product that is believed to reduce anxiety.  It is available as a spray or diffuser. Some owners swear by these products.

7)    The ASPCA has great information on desensitizing and counter conditioning.  Be careful and work with a behavioral specialist  because if desensitizing is done incorrectly, you can actually make your dog worse.

8)    Medications that control anxiety can be used along with other methods to increase success.  Consult your veterinarian about these and all medications.

9)    Never punish your dog for being fearful.  That will only compound the problem.

 10)    Don’t over reassure your dog either.  Telling them over and over what a poor baby they are may actually reinforce their fearful behavior.

11)  Finally, make certain that you are calm.  If you’re afraid of storms and loud noises you can’t be much help to your pet.