Is your dog afraid of fireworks, thunderstorms and other loud noises? A dog’s sense of hearing is much more sensitive than that of humans. They can hear sounds from a further distance and also pick up frequencies that we cannot hear. Which is why noises which simply seem only loud to us, can be disturbing and stressful for your dog. A dog scared of loud noises reacts by cowering, panting, hiding, urinating, running away or displaying agitated behaviour. You can help calm your dog with some training and conditioning. Here’s how to desensitise a dog to loud noises.
1. Expose your dog to noise gradually
The key to desensitising your dog to loud noises is to expose him or her to them gradually, and letting the dog get comfortable.
Young dogs can be taken on short, controlled visits to places with bustling noise. Gradually increase the duration and frequency according to your dog’s comfort levels. This is an easy way for getting dogs used to loud noises
However, if your dog displays signs of stress like pacing, panting or general agitated behaviour, reduce the stimulus level until he or she gets comfortable.
2. Use tracks to desensitise a dog to loud noises
You can find dog desensitisation sounds and tracks online, like this one. These tracks have specific noises such as fireworks, thunder sounds and assorted bangs.
Start with playing the tracks at a low volume for about 10 minutes a day. Gradually increase the volume over time according to your dog’s tolerance. Continue this for a few weeks and months. This greatly helps in reducing dog noise anxiety.
3. Use positive associations
Getting dogs used to loud noises involves using some distraction techniques too. While playing noise desensitization tracks, you can introduce positive distractions to help condition your dog’s responses. Engage your dog with his or her favourite toy or treats. This will help your dog develop a positive association with noise.
How to desensitize a dog to loud noises – Dos and Don’ts
Don’t forcefully expose your dog to loud noises when he or she is frightened. Desensitization is a gradual process which may take weeks to months.
Don’t punish your dog for becoming agitated – this can make the problem worse
Diwali is a stressful time for most dogs. Consider taking a vacation to a quieter place away from celebrations. If you are unable to do this, refer to our tips below on dealing with severe noise phobia.
Do stay calm every time your dog has an episode of noise anxiety.
Do consult your vet if the problem is very serious and impacting your dog’s quality of life
For dogs with severe noise phobia
Some dogs can develop severe noise phobia due to traumatic experiences or even age-related sensitivities. In such cases you need to take additional measures to provide immediate relief before you start densensitisation training. Here’s what to do if your dog is scared of fireworks, thunderstorms and routine loud noises.
1. Create a safe space
When your dog is scared of loud noises like fireworks, a thunderstorm, loud vehicles etc, he or she will instinctively want to hide. Give your dog a safe space to retreat to when he or she is scared.
This can be a sheltered kennel, a space in your cupboard, space under the bed or any other room in the house that is silent and comforting, preferably with dim lights. Every time your dog displays noise anxiety, lead him or her to that space calmly. Stay with your dog and continue doing regular activities.
2. Consider sound-proofing
In India, festivals like Diwali mean a lot of noise and fireworks for an extended period of time. This can be a very stressful time for a dog with noise phobia.
Soundproof your doors and windows to reduce the amount of noise your dog is exposed to. If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, use curtains since the smell and sight of lightning can act as a trigger.
3. Use calming aids and medication
There are various techniques you can experiment with to try to calm your anxious dog. Some dogs respond well to anti-anxiety wraps.
You can try a DIY version or get a commercial product such as the Thundershirt. You can also try calming natural sprays. Soothing tracks created especially for dogs can also help calm your dog down during an episode. Alternative therapies such as homeopathy and herbal remedies are another option.
In serious cases, consult your vet for specific medication to use for your dog.
Use a combination of the methods listed above and desensitisation training for better impact. A canine behaviourist can provide more tips on how to desensitise a dog to loud noises. With patience and time, you can gradually get your dog accustomed to loud noises.