House of Dog Training

Noise Phobias

Written by Angie Neal and Allison Walker © 2011 – All Rights Reserved 

Is your dog afraid of thunderstorms, fireworks and other loud noises? How difficult is it to watch your
dog panic, sometimes to the point of physical injury? There are things that you can do to help cure
your dog’s fear of noise phobias. Below are recommendations that will help with the issue of noise
phobias. However, first it is important to realize the possible down fall. The down fall comes when
owners lose patience and want to see results right away. Impatient owners go way too fast too soon
or, when results are not seen quickly, they tend to give up too soon. It is the owners who take their
time to go slowly who see results.

Changing the Conditioned Emotional Response that your dog has toward loud noises is a process and it
can be a very slow process. Those owners wanting a quick fix will not have the patience to complete
the process. Quick fixes mean a visit to your vet for tranquilizers. As a result, they usually end up with
a comatose dog that still may exhibit fear responses to loud noises. Tranquilizers only mask the
problem as long as the dog is medicated. Keeping a dog medicated for life is not a solution.

Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning:

In basic terms Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning will change your dogs Conditioned Emotional
Response from a negative to a positive. For example, your dog is not fond of men but loves tennis balls
or treats. If you have a man toss treats or tennis balls, you will find over a period of time that your dog
will associate playing with tennis balls or getting treats with that particular man. The man now equals
play or treats. That creates a positive association with that man and your dog will eventually warm up
to that man. This is an example of Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning work with his dog and the bell.
Pavlov repeatedly rang the bell and gave his dog a treat. Eventually, when the dog heard the bell it
salivated because it associated the sound of the bell with getting a treat. You are using classical
conditioning to change your dog’s association to noise. With enough conditioning, your dog will
associate noise with good things instead of bad.

For dogs that have more intense negative responses to loud noises and are too stressed to eat high
motivating treats or play with favorite toys, CD’s can be recorded or purchased to recreate the loud
noise. These CD’s will allow you to introduce the noise at a low level so your dog can hear it but does
not react fearful. Starting at a low volume is the most important piece to this method. If you turn the
volume up to where the dog is too stressed the process will not be productive. As your gets used to the
low sound, gradually adjust the volume with time. The goal is to adjust the volume every two weeks as
long as your dog is not exhibiting stress signals and is able to take treats and play while playing CD.
This allows you to work on the process way before thunderstorm season or the 4th of July.

Management:

If your dog is crate-trained, then leaving your dog in its crate during thunderstorms or fireworks with a
very special treat will help you manage your dog’s fearful behavior. Do not use the same-old dry
biscuits in the crate. Purchase special treats such as a frozen raw Buffalo Bone (found at local stores
such as Wag-N-Wash). You can also stuff a Kong with extra special treats that will keep your dog busy
and happy. Freezing a stuffed Kong will make it more challenging for your dog, so the treat lasts
longer.

It is also beneficial to move your dog’s crate into a room with a fan, television or radio. Play calming
music at a moderate level to drown out the majority of scary noises.

You can also spray the inside of your dogs crate with DAP Comfort Zone, a calming pheromone found
at most pet stores. DAP comes in a diffuser and a spray. The spray is great for concentrated areas like
a crate or car. The Comfort Zone Diffuser w/DAP, which is a plug in for the home and can last for a
month, is great for storm season.

Avoid taking your dog with you in thunderstorms or fireworks displays. A frightened dog in a panic is
difficult to control and more likely to bite in fear. It is also important not to coddle your dog when it is
scared. You will be reinforcing being frightened. It is better to avoid loud noises when you are not
working on Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning. These processes take time but results will happen!


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