Fear of Thunder and Other Loud Noises

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 21:31
Woman reassuring her dog who is scared of loud noises, especially thunderstorms

Many dogs have a fear of loud sounds, such as thunder, cars backfiring and fireworks. Individual dogs cope differently with these noises: Some try to run away from them, some become destructive and others attempt to hide. It may take a scared dog several hours or more for him to recover from the experience of hearing a loud noise, so regardless of how your dog displays his fear and anxiety, make sure you give him time to decompress afterward. If you do not help to calm your dog’s fear, he may injure himself, run away or wreak havoc on your home in his desperation to get away from the fearful sound. Here are some tips for helping a dog who is scared of loud noises.

Storms

If you know that a storm is coming, turn on some music or your TV to muffle the sound of the thunder. Create a safe place in your home for the dog. Let your dog show you where: If he goes to a favorite spot, make a nice bed there. Encourage him to rest there with you and, if he does relax, offer him a food-filled Kong or bone. Allow him to leave that spot and return to it if he wants.

Do not put a frightened dog in a crate and leave. Though his crate may normally be a safe place for him, he may feel trapped in there if he’s frightened during a storm. He could injure himself badly trying to get out of the crate. If your dog does find the crate to be a safe place, leave the door open so he can go in and out as he chooses.

As the thunder gets louder, he may not be able to stay relaxed. You can try to play a favorite game with him or hand-feed him a really special treat. If he does not calm down, just be with him and try to reassure him. However, do not force affection on your dog if he’s stressed, anxious or uncomfortable. Respect his boundaries and allow him to hide somewhere if he wishes. There are also several products you can buy that may help reduce your dog's anxiety. Try a Thundershirt or BlackWing Farms remedies.

Behavior modification

If your dog’s fear is not extreme, you may want to try behavior modification. Here’s how it works: Get a recording of storm sounds (or whatever the offending noise is) and play it at very low volume while you engage your dog in activities she likes. You can play games with her, groom her, hand-feed her, or practice cues she knows in return for treats. If she is fine with that volume, practice the next day with the volume turned up a bit. Continue raising the volume a little each day as you involve her in pleasurable activities.

This method gradually desensitizes the dog and, over time, she finds the noise less fearful. If she becomes fearful at any point, lower the volume to a level at which she is comfortable and proceed more slowly. If your dog’s fearfulness is severe, you may need help from your veterinarian or a behavior specialist. Some dogs need medical intervention to cope with storms, fireworks or other loud noises.