by Katherine Khoo December 27, 2023 7 min read

Noise anxiety in dogs is a phobia around loud noises, like sounds from fireworks or thunderstorms. It can result in many anxious behaviours including attempts to escape and destructive behaviour. It is a common issue among dogs, impacting approximately one-third of the canine population. Whether stemming from a singular traumatic event or repeated exposure to distressing stimuli, dogs can exhibit a spectrum of reactions, varying from mild fear to severe phobic responses. In this article, we will examine the typical causes and triggers of fear of noise, look into the symptoms, and explore preventive measures to assist your beloved companion in overcoming their fear.

Noise Anxiety in Dogs - 6 Ways to Help Your Dog

Causes and triggers of noise anxiety in dogs

While fear can be a normal and adaptive response, such as when a dog startles from a loud clap of thunder, phobias represent exaggerated and excessive reactions that are maladaptive. For instance, if a dog trembles for hours following a single clap of thunder, it suggests a response beyond what is considered typical. Assessing the dog's recovery period from the noise can provide insight into whether the behaviour is within the realm of normal or potentially harmful to the dog's physical health and emotional well-being.

Untreated noise aversions in dogs tend to worsen over time, and a fear initially tied to one specific sound may generalise to encompass a fear of other sounds, whether similar or different. This progression underscores the importance of addressing noise-related fears promptly to prevent the development of broader anxieties that can negatively impact a dog's overall quality of life.

Identifying the exact cause of your dog's noise anxiety can be challenging, but it may be possible to trace the origins of their anxiety back to a traumatic incident. Here are a few common noise anxiety triggers in dogs:

  • Loud noises. Dogs have sensitive hearing, and exposure to loud sounds such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or construction noises can trigger anxiety.
  • Traumatic experiences. Previous traumatic events, like accidents or abuse involving loud noises, can contribute to a dog's fear and anxiety.
  • Socialisation issues. Dogs that haven't been adequately socialised to various sounds during their critical developmental stages may be more prone to noise anxiety.
  • Medical conditions. Pain has been associated with noise sensitivity in dogs. Noise anxiety in senior dogs are more likely to be associated with medical conditions including pain, declining neurological function, and cognitive dysfunction syndrome.
  • Genetic predisposition. Some dog breeds are more genetically predisposed to anxiety disorders, including noise anxiety. Some studies suggests that noise anxiety appears in some breeds, such as Collies, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, more than others.

Noise Anxiety in Dogs - 6 Ways to Help Your Dog

Symptoms of noise anxiety in dogs

Here are a few symptoms of noise anxiety. Severity will differ, depending on the dog’s level of anxiety.

Behavioural signs

  • Excessive barking, howling, or whining
  • Restlessness and pacing
  • Attempts to escape or hide
  • Destructive behaviour, like chewing or digging

Physical signs

  • Trembling or shaking
  • Increased heart rate and panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Loss of appetite

Withdrawal and aggression

  • Dogs may either become overly clingy and seek comfort or display aggressive behaviour out of fear.

Prevention strategies for noise anxiety

Early socialisation

Early socialisation plays a pivotal role in a dog's development. Expose puppies to various sounds during their critical socialisation period to help them become more resilient to noise. These early socialisation experiences must incorporate positive reinforcement, often in the form of treats, to create positive associations. This socialisation should ideally take place during the critical period of development, which spans from the first 3 to 12 weeks of age, and continue beyond this timeframe.

Create positive associations

Pair loud noises with positive experiences, like treats or play, to help dogs associate these sounds with something enjoyable. Recognise the symptoms of noise anxiety and avoid using punishment or correction as a way of mitigating fear or phobic reactions. Discipline is unlikely to reduce fear and it is likely to make the situation worse.

Avoid adding drama!

It is advisable to refrain from extensive coddling or consoling a fearful dog. This excessive reassurance can inadvertently signal to the dog that there is a valid reason for fear, potentially worsening their anxiety. While providing attention in the moment may temporarily calm the dog, it is essential to recognize that attention alone does not teach the dog to overcome their fear of specific stimuli. In fact, consistently offering attention during fearful episodes can inadvertently condition the dog to seek attention as a coping strategy when afraid, fostering a dependence on your presence for reassurance.

This reliance on attention as a coping mechanism can pose challenges, particularly when the dog is exposed to fear-inducing stimuli in your absence. As such, attention and consoling should not be the primary strategy for addressing a dog's fear of noises. Instead, a more comprehensive approach involving desensitisation, positive reinforcement, and professional guidance is often recommended for effective and lasting results in managing noise anxiety in dogs.

Create safe spaces

Create a safe and quiet space for your dog to retreat during noisy events, providing comfort and a sense of security. This space, perhaps an interior room or a corner away from windows and heavy traffic. To make this safe space more appealing, consider introducing toys or treats. Associating positive experiences, such as receiving treats or engaging with a stimulating toy, can create a positive association with this designated area. You can also proactively train or reward your dog for spending time in this location, reinforcing the idea that it is a pleasant and secure environment.

Noise Anxiety in Dogs - 6 Ways to Help Your Dog

Helping your dog overcome noise anxiety

Different methods work for different dogs. There is no guarantee that any one alternative is best for your dog. If unsure, seek guidance from a veterinary or professional dog behaviourist. In severe cases, always consult with a veterinarian to explore medication options that can help manage anxiety.

1) Minimise exposure to the trigger

Whenever possible avoid or minimise exposure to the sounds that frighten your dog. Continuing to expose your dog to the sounds will likely increase his fear and anxiety.

2) Change the dog’s environment

Changes to your dog's environment can be a helpful approach in managing anxiety. While these environmental changes may not yield immediate and dramatic results, they contribute to symptom reduction by fostering a more calming setting for your dog. Consider the following suggestions for creating a more calming atmosphere:

  • Establish a safe space for your dog. Set up a quiet, secure and cosy space for your dog, such as a crate covered with a blanket. This designated area can serve as a retreat to minimise exposure to external stimuli.
  • Noise masking. Use soft background music to help drown out or mask the problematic noise that triggers your dog's anxiety. This ambient noise can create a more soothing environment.
  • Mental stimulation and distraction. For some dogs, nose or scent work can be effective in alleviating anxiety. Nosework activities challenge a dog's cognitive abilities and mental focus. Engaging in scent-based tasks can be mentally enriching and divert the dog's attention away from anxiety-inducing stimuli. So, lay out a few of these Studio Ollie Nosework Dog Toys to engage your dog in a rewarding and enjoyable activity, promoting a sense of satisfaction and relaxation.

3) Preemptive exercise

Before anticipated events like thunderstorms or fireworks, provide your dog with ample exercise. This can help expend excess energy, reducing the likelihood of anxious behaviours. A tired dog is often more resilient in the face of stressors.

4) Pressure wrap and ear muffs

This is a simple yet effective treatment for many dogs dealing with anxiety. Essentially, a pressure wrap is any item that encircles the dog's torso and chest, providing a consistent and gentle pressure. The gentle pressure provides comfort and security to the dog while diverting their attention from the source of fear or anxiety.

You can experiment with creating your own pressure wrap using a properly sized t-shirt, or opt for a commercially available product like a Thundershirt Anxiety Relief Vest. Pressure wraps often yield positive results even after the initial use, though some dogs may require two, three, or more sessions before you observe a noticeable reduction or elimination of symptoms. The simplicity and potential efficacy of pressure wraps make them a practical option for pet owners seeking non-invasive methods to alleviate their dogs' anxiety.

Another simple and effective method is the dog ear muffs. Commonly used during pet grooming to prevent nervousness in dogs and cats during the drying process, these ear muffs may help to sooth nervous dogs and cats from loud noises such as storms and fireworks.

5) Pheromones and calming supplements

Some pet parents choose to treat their dogs with more natural remedies, which can include pheromones and supplements meant to keep dogs calm. Several products on the market emit natural pheromones that can have a calming, reassuring effect on dogs. One of them is the ADAPTIL Calm Behaviour Training (For Anxiety) Diffuser Kit for Dogs. When diffused, this kit emits a synthetic copy of the natural canine appeasing pheromone which has been scientifically proven to calm dogs but have no effect on humans or other animal species.

Calming supplements come in the form of chews, additives, or drops and these can also help relieve noise anxiety. The NaturVet Evolutions Advanced Calming Support Soft Chew Dog Supplement helps to balance the serotonin and dopamine levels and provides neuromuscular support for a complete synergistic calming approach. This supplement is perfect for dogs exhibiting nervousness, hyperactivity, discontentment or responding to environmentally induced stress. Highly recommended to maintain contentment during separation, travel, motion sickness, storms, fireworks, and changes in daily routine.

6) Desensitisation and behavioural training

Work with a professional dog trainer to implement behaviour modification techniques that address anxiety triggers. Desensitisation is the most common behaviour modification tried for noise anxiety. You begin by exposing your dog to a low level of the noise that bothers them in a controlled environment. As they get accustomed to it, you increase the levels louder and louder over time until they learn to tolerate the real deal. There are plenty of books and training videos on the internet, however, it’s best to consult your veterinarian or a professional pet behaviourist for the most effective results.

Noise Anxiety in Dogs - 6 Ways to Help Your Dog

Addressing noise anxiety in dogs is a multifaceted challenge, demanding understanding, patience, and proactive measures from pet owners. While the provided tips can serve as a starting point, it's crucial to recognize the uniqueness of each dog and customise your approach according to their specific needs. Consulting with professionals, such as veterinarians or professional dog trainers, can offer valuable insights and guidance tailored to your dog's individual circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Katherine Khoo
KATHERINE KHOO
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.

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