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Calming your dog's fear of loud noises

Any calming device, whether it be soft music, or a snug dog shirt, should be occasionally used when the weather is good and your dog is happy. This will help him/her develop positive associations with them—not just scary ones.
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By Lisa Kedian
Special to the Cochrane Eagle

Is your dog afraid of loud noises? Most dogs don’t mind them, but there are those who have developed fear toward loud noises. This fear is stressful for your dog and can limit activities your dog can participate in with you. Since dogs don’t understand noises won’t hurt them, we need to find other ways to alleviate their fear.

Thunder, fireworks, and loud vehicles are probably the most common noise triggers. Here are some ways to help your dog feel safe when things go boom:

1. Provide a safe space for your dog or enhance one that he/she has chosen. Put a crate or bed in it. Give a very special long-lasting treat or a hollow rubber chew toy that can be stuffed with something good.

2. Leave the crate door open. If your dog’s fear is so severe that he/she panics and tries to escape a crate, leave the door open. Dogs can be injured or lost in their efforts to get away from frightening noises.

3. Before your dog has a chance to get upset about a noise, distract him/her with a fun game like fetch or tug. Practice some tricks and/or obedience skills and give nice rewards for focusing on you. If your dog reaches a point where he/she can’t focus, it’s best to stop. Don’t create an unpleasant association with games and behaviours that he/she normally likes.

4. Reward calm behaviour. Don’t wait for your dog to show signs of stress before you give attention. Play calming music or turn on the television may help to muffle the loud noises.

5. Condition your dog to loud noises early. Take it slowly because it may take months to alleviate already established fears. A good way to start, is by dropping a small book (from a distance) while you reward and play. If he/she startles, stay calm and cheerful and give treats, like cooked chicken breast or beef liver. Soon, your dog will learn that it’s nothing to worry about.

Any calming device, whether it be soft music, or a snug dog shirt, should be occasionally used when the weather is good and your dog is happy. This will help him/her develop positive associations with them—not just scary ones.

The Cochrane & Area Humane Society offers a variety of behaviour and training services that can help you cope with your fearful or anxious dog. Please visit our website for more details: www.cochranehumane.ca/programs/animal-training

Lisa Kedian is the communications coordinator for the Cochrane and Area Humane Society




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