Fear of Noises in Dogs
Canine noise fear is a somewhat common occurrence among dogs. These fears can soon become phobias, which are defined as persistent, excessive and irrational fear responses. Fear of noise can manifest in dogs and cause the dog to show outward signs of fearful behavior including anxiety, attempts to escape, skittishness, panting, whining and howling.
What Causes the Fear?
There are various reasons why a dog may develop noise fear. The two primary reasons being the dog’s breed and learned fear. Certain canine breeds, such as herding breeds like Shepherds and Collies, are more genetically predisposed to developing a fear of noises.
Also, regardless of breed, a noise phobia may be traced to a particular bad experience that a dog had involving that certain clamor. In almost all instances, the fear of noises and thunder storms will escalate, worsening with each exposure.
Soon, your dog may become fearful of similar sounds or events associated with the noise. If this fear grows, he may associate certain sounds with a call to action triggering anxiety. For example, a pet afraid of thunder may also become afraid of rain due to the event association.
In the case of thunderstorms, pets may also be fearful of storm-associated events, such as a change in barometric pressure, lightning and electrostatic disturbances. In some situations, even smells associated with storms can cause a dog to have fearful anxiety.
Types of Noise Phobias
Noise phobias can include fear of thunderstorms, firecrackers, doorbells, blenders and car alarms. Each dog is unique so each dog’s reaction to everyday stimuli will be different.
How to Ease Your Dog’s Noise Fear
Dogs are products of their environment and their owner’s reactionary attitude to the noise can influence the severity of the dog’s fear. For instance, if you’re nervous during storms, noise phobias in your dog may occur more often or become more severe episodes.
Similarly, the petting or comforting of your dog when he is reacting fearfully to a noise is actually positive reinforcement of his undesirable fearful behavior. It would be best for you to show no reaction when the noise occurs, which will translate the message to your dog there is nothing to be scared of, thus deactivating the noise as an anxiety trigger.
Consider a Product to Aid Fear
There are several things that can be done to help keep exposure to many of the alarming sounds that can arise around the house to a minimum for your pet. There are products available to help aid in comforting your dog when he’s suffering from noise-associated phobias.
Thundershirts have been known to soothe a dog noticeably with the first usage. The Thundershirt is a velcro vest that provides a constant gentle pressure on the canine’s torso. The vest reportedly produces a calming effect due to the envelopment of his nervous system. It is most commonly used for dogs who are afraid of thunderstorms, but can also help with most noise fears and phobias.
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There are also multiple forms of all-natural sprays that are said to help anxious or fearful dogs as well as collars, such as the Calming Collar by Good Behavior. The Calming Collar releases all-natural calming pheromones into the air, which relaxes your dog regardless of nearby anxiety causing stimuli.
Desensitize Your Dog
However, despite the many behavior curbing products out there, the most ideal treatment for noise fear would be desensitization to the noise itself. If your dog is afraid of the noise the vacuum cleaner makes, it would be best to have the dog contained in a separate part of the house while using it.
Start exposing your dog to the noise little by little, making sure to create a positive association to the noise and desensitize him at the same time. Set up a scenario with someone using the vacuum in another room while you work with your dog on obedience cues and reward him with his favorite treat. As time moves forward and the positive association is being put in place, you can start exposing him closer to the noisy vacuum.
This is the best way to work with your pet as a dog trainer and help him permanently cure his fears instead of just temporarily treating it!