Noise Phobia: Tips to Comfort a Dog Who Fears Thunder, Fireworks and Other Sounds

Anxious Chihuahua
iStockphoto
To desensitize your dog to noises he's afraid of, try playing a CD of thunder or firework noises at a low volume and gradually increasing the volume as he gets comfortable with the sound.

Create a safe place. Find a quiet room or large closet in the interior of the house, away from any windows. Place a comfortable dog bed in there and fill it with treats and toys or even feed your dog there so she associates positive things with the area. During fireworks or storms, consider playing soft music or creating white noise by turning on a fan. If your dog prefers the comfort of her crate, always leave the door open so she can escape if she's feeling stressed.

Promote calm. Your veterinarian can recommend products that may help relieve some of the stress. For example, there are pheromone sprays, collars and room diffusers that can help promote a calming effect in some dogs. For dogs with storm phobias, products like the Thundershirt and the Anxiety Wrap apply gentle pressure to help reduce fear, and the Storm Defender Cape may help decrease static electricity during storms. Be aware that these products do not work for all dogs, so talk to your veterinarian about recommendations. Some dogs also benefit from calming supplements.

Try desensitization and counter conditioning. Desensitization involves identifying the specific noises the dog is afraid of and exposing the dog to the noise, first at barely audible levels that don’t elicit a reaction. This must be combined with counter conditioning, or pairing a positive reward, such as treats, play or praise, with the noise. As the dog becomes more comfortable, the volume can be gradually increased until the noise has no significant effect on the dog. For example, you might play a recording of fireworks or thunder at a very low volume while giving your dog treats for remaining calm. This can be done for a few minutes each day, while very gradually increasing the volume over a period of weeks.

Helping your dog to overcome noise phobias takes time and patience. By working closely with your veterinarian and/or veterinary behaviorist, you can help to alleviate some of your dog’s stress and anxiety, so she learns that noise isn't always something to fear.

More on Vetstreet:

Google+

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!