Noise phobias and your dog

Noise phobias, especially of storms or fireworks, are common in dogs. These dogs will act out by hiding, pacing, panting, trembling, peeing, pooping, drooling, and destroying things. Some dogs will even take it to the extreme of hurting themselves jumping through windows or biting and scratching at doors.  Some dogs become so fearful they do not want to go outside the house or around the area they associate with these noises.

Noise phobias: how to help your dog

1. Create a safe space

The first step in managing and treating noise phobias in dogs is to give them a safe place to hide. This safe haven can be a windowless basement, closet, crate, or bathroom. It is important to make sure your dog has access to this area when no one is home.

2. Noise phobias need alternate sound

Cover the noise with the more soothing sounds of a gentle radio station, television, white noise machine, fan or air conditioner. This reduces how much they hear scary noises.

Classical music can be relaxing for some dogs.

Pheromones may be beneficial in some cases and can be ordered through your vet or EberVet Vetshop. These come in a diffuser, wipes, or spray. These pheromones can be placed on a bandanna, blanket, or a favourite toy reduce anxiety.

3. Comfort your dog

This isn’t the answer for all dogs. Many may enjoy the comfort of your closeness and reassurance where others become more anxious. Monitor your dog. If they become more fearful, stop trying to comfort them. If attention and touch calm your dog, there is no reason to stop.

4. Desensitisation and counterconditioning

These are forms of behaviour modification used to reduce the fear of noise and storms. Desensitisation exposes the dog to a scary noise at such a low level that the animal is not scared. This should be done with the assistance of a professional, like an animal behaviourist, or you could get it horribly wrong and your dog will only become more afraid.

Counterconditioning changes the association of the noise with fear. This you can do at home. Distract your dog from the noise by playing with him, or doing the fun stuff he loves. Food can also be distraction, like an extra special treat that only comes out during scary events. Food puzzles allow your dog to anticipate something fun and special when a storm is roaring overhead.

5. Medication

There are medications your veterinarian can prescribe to reduce the fear in your dog. They must be given before the scary noise to be effective.  Sometimes this isn’t always possible but if, for example, your dog is petrified of storms and the storm passes over without event, it is better to have medicated beforehand than not.

A magic pill to treat noise phobias does not exist. Treatment involves a combination of environmental management, behaviour modification, and medication. A fear of noises can be reduced, but a cure is rare.

 

Department of Health COVID-19 updates available at www.sacoronavirus.co.za

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