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Help Your Dog Overcome Fear of Loud Noises

by Coach Lilly

It is not unusual for a dog to be afraid of thunder and other loud noises; however it can become a problem if not dealt with properly. Dogs have a high acoustic sensitivity, much superior to ours, hence what we consider a loud noise, for him can be a true inferno unleashed. The good news is that many of the sound hypersensitivity issues can be solved successfully when you know exactly what to do and how to behave.

How can you tell if your dog has noise phobia?

The most common behaviors associated with noise phobia are running, hiding, barking and other destructive actions. Running and trying to find a safe haven to hide is natural, but in doing so hurt themselves, addressing this issue in early stages is crucial.

How you can help your doggie overcome the fear of loud noises:

– Create a safe place for him to hide when he gets scared. Remember that it needs to be safe from his point of view, not only yours. It usually needs to be a place not in the way, darker and small. Many dogs choose to hide under the bed or go inside the house if they usually stay in the backyard. You can also feed him then, and help him make positive connections while being in there. If the dog went through training, ask him to do something— motivate him and use treats. While this safe-haven approach can work with some dogs, others can become hyperactive when they are afraid, and hiding won’t help them at all. If this is the case, you can try to:

– Distract him. This method is usually effective with puppies and younger dogs when they get anxious. Involve him in an activity that gets his complete attention. You can get out the tennis ball he loves so much and ask him to fetch (if he was trained to do so). Give praise and treats for paying attention to the game. If the dog starts to show tiredness or boredom, stop the play at once. Using this technique, you will eventually work the fear away by focusing on something else.

How to change unwanted behavior caused by noise phobia?

The professionals swear by systematic desensitization when it comes to changing unwanted behavior caused by fear of loud noises. In a few words this means you will need to train your dog to answer to commands without reacting to stimuli like loud noises. It is a process that takes time but has a high success rate. Start out softly and gradually expose the dog to noises and try to get his attention with a game or a treat. Over the course of a few sessions increase the intensity of the noise while trying to get his attention. During this exercise, he will learn to associate pleasant things with the sound that used to make him afraid.

Tips and tricks:

– You can record loud noises and play it while you are having fun with your dog. First, make sure the volume is low enough not to bother the dog. In time, increase the volume while continuing the same activity (play, feed, treats). Don’t exercise more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time to avoid stress.

– Never punish the dog when he is afraid, as this will only escalate his destructive behavior. Never force him to listen and don’t expose him to loud noises without practicing beforehand, as this behavior might hurt him or others.

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