help! My dog is scared of sounds!

Bang Bang Boo!

Noise sensitivity in dogs is a very common but potentially very distressing problem. It could be your new puppy being scared of a loud noises, it could be your new foreign rescue finding his new world completely alien, or it could be a pathological issue, often co morbid with true separation anxiety. 

Triggers can be mundane or downright weird: motorbikes, lorries, children playing, birds crying, washing machines, hoovers, planes, silence, shouting, barking...

In West London, fireworks are an enormous and increasing problem with any excuse for louder and louder explosions to be let off at seemingly random intervals. It is now not only Bonfire night, but Divali, New Year, Birthdays... Weddings.... Some dogs are fine then suddenly develop a fear, and for some dogs it is dangerously distressing. This poor chap in such a terrible state is all too common: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prevention is DEFINITELY better than cure....

In order to make your new puppy or older dog "bombproof," you have to begin EARLY. This process can take months so all the calls on November 1st I get about dogs with long standing phobias break my heart - it often too late to help for this bout and it is unlikely owners will remember to take action until it is too close to the next event. 

So, do something NOW about it. The good news is, it is often relatively simple. You essentially need to go through a process called desensitisation. Basically, you are exposing your dog to the stimulus (sound, in this case), that provokes a reaction, at such a level that it does NOT provoke any negativity. With sound, it is fairly easy to manage. You could play the sound on your phone, on level one, in the corner of the room, muffling it with a pillow, and your dog should show NO reaction at all, not even looking up, not even an ear pricked. When you have done this for a good long time (at least an hour, or as long as it take - a day?), then remove the pillow, or increase the volume one notch, and start again. And so on... 

When you can play the noise at full blast, outside the window, from your Wembley-worthy 100 watt speakers, then you can move on to the next type of noise! 

It can, and probably should, be a long a laborious process, but you have to go at the pace dictated by your dog. For this reason, I wouldn't give time schedules or plans until I have had a consultation with your dog. 

For some dogs, this can be a debilitating and heartbreaking condition needing medication and expert help. Please get help early if you are worried, from your vet or from a behaviourist. Give a call if you are in doubt. 

Resources: 

  • Dogs Trust have a set of sounds for you to practice on. It is very useful, but I'm not sure it stresses just HOW little reaction you are looking for before you raise the increments!

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