Canine Behaviour: Fear of Loud Noises – Causes and Fixes

Fear of loud noises is a common problem with canines. Dogs have an acute sense of hearing, so it is perfectly natural for them to fear loud, unfamiliar sounds. Some dogs do seem to be particularly susceptible to this fear, however. This could be to do with breed type, personality, or lack of socialisation as a puppy.

Cause and Effect

Typical triggers include:

  • Fireworks
  • Thunder
  • Traffic sound (e.g. car horns)
  • DIY and building work
  • Sirens
  • Loud music
  • Vacuum cleaners/hairdryers
  • Shouting, or other dogs barking

The effect of these sounds over a fearful dog may cause him to:

  • Bark excessively
  • Urinate or defecate inside
  • Pant excessively
  • Shake uncontrollably
  • Hide
  • Refuse to go outside

 

Ways to Approach a Fear of Loud Noises

  • Try desensitisation. This works well if there is one particular sound your dog fears. Record the sound and play it in the background very quietly. Slowly build up the volume over time, in small steps each day to desensitise him to the sound.
  • Reward positive behaviour. Reinforce the behaviour you want – do not fuss or pander to negative behaviours.
  • Consider counter-conditioning. Try treating your dog every time a he hears a sound he fears. Eventually he may begin to associate the sound with something positive.
  • Do not yell or punish. This behaviour is often borne out of stress, so scolding your dog could make the situation worse.
  • Pre-empt noisy situations. Provide your dog with a quiet, cosy place to hide on noisy occasions such as bonfire night.
  • If in doubt, seek expert advice. If you are particularly concerned about your dog, ensure you consult a vet or a behaviourist for further advice.

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