Noise phobia can be a very serious issue for our dogs, sadly causing considerable stress. Signs that your dog is worried by loud noises include panting, trembling, hiding, destructiveness and even self-injury. Considering nearly 50% of guardians asked reported that their pets suffer from sound sensitivity to loud and sudden noises, it’s clearly important to know how to make your home environment as comfortable and safe as possible. If you know fireworks are scheduled or a thunderstorm has been forecast, please don’t leave your dog to cope home alone. Take precautions to close all curtains and blinds, to prevent visual disturbances such as flashing lights. Play relaxing music such as classic FM or Through a Dog’s Ear. Studies found that slow piano music like Mozart is the most relaxing music for dogs, whereas heavy metal is the least. Create a safe space for your dog to go, such as a covered open crate or a comfy bed under a desk. Make sure that this place has been previously conditioned to be a safe and fun place for them, as an area your dog hides only when noises are happening is only a bolt hole rather than a safe haven. For some dogs having dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) plug-ins can help, such as Adaptil. Or alternatively, Pet Remedy is made up of calming essential oils such as valerian. Provide your dog with entertaining things to do such as puzzle games, snuffle mats, lickimats or long-lasting tasty chews to keep them busy. For all these protocols, make sure that your dog has had previous relaxing experiences with them so they don’t just come out when scary noises occur. If your dog asks for comfort, you can absolutely provide it. It is outdated and incorrect advice that you can’t comfort a scared dog. Lastly, if this is a behaviour that has only just begun to cause issues for your dog, or if the fearful behaviours displayed are particularly intense please get in touch with a positive reinforcement vet (or clinical) behaviourist, as there may be a underlying medical reason. Recent studies show that sudden onset of noise sensitiivty can be a sign of musculoskeletal pain, so best to get your dog checked just in case.
Kay Warnes – qualified dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell Academy, currently studying MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour