Preventing Noise Phobia
We can never predict which pups will be noise sensitive. If you
ever lived with a noise phobic dog, you know the feeling of helplessness as you
watch your pet become more anxious during the noisy season. Here are some tools you can put in your tool
box to help prevent noise phobia, minimize the symptoms, and have some basic
tools to deal with the problem should it occur.
Tools for the toolbox
Scary things predict food
Anything we can do to help our pups be prepared and not afraid is
a good thing. Our plan is to always pair scary things with something really good. The
scarier the "thing" the better the treat needs to be.
It is best to keep your dog or pup at home instead of bringing
them to a firework display. Their ears are very sensitive and this is a sure
way to make them nervous at best, petrified at worst. Be prepared at least a
week ahead of time for fireworks as many people start their celebrations a
little early. Be sure to have lots of yummy treats on hand. Whenever you hear a boom, promptly toss your
dog a treat or treats to the floor. Before long, whenever your dog hears a scary
noise they are going to be looking for treats falling from the sky! If there is
a place you would like your dog to go during storms or fireworks, you can toss
the treats on/in that place.
Scary things predict games with toys
For the dogs that are not food motivated, there is still a
solution. The trick is to find out what
motivates them. Is it a game of tug, chasing a ball, or a squeaky toy? The process
is still the same. Loud noises result in a toss of the toy.
Doing tricks redirects the dog's attention so they forget there is something
Dogs that know some simple tricks such as sit, down or touch can
be distracted by performing for you. Practice these "tricks" so they are fun and your dog is always
motivated to perform them! These tricks become very handy any time you need to
get your dog's attention on you and not on something else.
There are times when you will need to be busy, or are unavailable
to work with your dog during these scary events. If your dog is food motivated then using food
puzzles and long lasting chew toys will help to keep them distracted. Toy motivated
dogs might like to play with puzzle toys.
It is important to practice these skills when it is not storming
and scary things are not around. Rehearsals make the performances go very smoothly. If we only practiced
these skills during scary events, the routines would start to predict that
something scary is about to happen.
Tools for us to practice
1) Cease "coddling." It is our nature to want to comfort a scared
pet. Many times however we are setting
the pet up to be more frightened. Reassuring our pets that it is "okay" when our body language is
telling the dog otherwise, inadvertently relays the opposite of what we
intend. "Okay" can turn into a cue that means the dog needs to be on high alert, something bad or scary is coming. Think of all the times you might reassure
your pet in this fashion: storms, fireworks, car rides, and the veterinary clinic
are probably just a few of the places we might tell our pets "It's Okay." Rest
assured, if you exhibit calm body language your dog will read this too, without speaking a word. Calm
body language in addition to treats is the best way to help your pet feel more
2) Cease punishment. In
our attempt to stop an undesirable behavior we may yell or even hit our dogs.
It is important to remember the dog is really fearful, just like us it
is not something they can just "get over." Punishing your dog is more likely to increase your dog's anxiety and
fear, not only toward the feared object but to you as well. Punishment tends to erode the relationship
between the dog and its owner.
3) Remain calm. Dogs
are excellent at reading body language. If pictures paint a thousand words, our body language speaks volumes to our
pets. We need to breathe deeply and
calmly, "walk the walk" and let our dogs know that it truly is "Okay."
4) Less is more when it
comes to speaking. It is best to not say anything except what you really
want. Giving a specific direction or rewarding the desired behavior speaks
volumes to the dog.
5) Teach your dog is is okay to be away from you. It is such a gift we can give to our pups that they will be okay if the can self sooth and comfort themselves without us. We all want our dogs to be our best friend and for them to look to us for help, support and comfort. What happens when we are not home to comfort our pet when they are really frightened? Our pets need to know what to do when we are not there. Beds, mats, and crates can all be places of comfort for your pet.
Hopefully, by taking these simple steps, you can help your dog
become comfortable around loud noise. Remember the techniques described above
and implement them whenever you feel your dog is a little anxious. If your dog is showing any signs of
anxiousness in the presence of sounds, contact your veterinarian. It is easier to treat the problem when the
symptoms are mild, than when the pet is frantic. An ounce of prevention is certainly worth a
pound of cure when it comes noise sensitivity.