Noise sensitivity in dogs
NOISE sensitivities in dogs are a highly stressful and in some cases a potentially life threatening condition that can be managed.
Your dog may be sensitive to a noise because they have not been exposed to it when they were learning new things as a puppy or because they had a scary experience around that sound.
Certain noises such as sirens, fireworks, guns, vacuums, thunder or even kettles may cause your dog to exhibit symptoms.
Physical signs you may see include panting, increased heart rate, tense muscles, dilated pupils, urination or barking.
These highly stressed dogs may also destroy property or injure themselves trying to escape the noise or to access their safe area.
Along with the harm to the dog, noise sensitivities can cause issues due to noise complaints when the dog is barking, or dogs becoming lost and ending up at the local pound, or even worse, being injured by cars.
The good news is there is plenty we can do to stop your dog from suffering through such stressful events.
Noise phobias are not a training or obedience issue, they are a medical condition.
Like other medical conditions they can be managed through changes to the environment, behaviour modification and, where required, medications.
Punishment makes the situation worse and must be avoided.
When your dog is highly stressed due to a noise they cannot think clearly so any destruction is not them being naughty.
Phobias often get worse with time so if left unmanaged are likely to become more severe.
Prevention is always better than cure so when you get a puppy you can teach to actually enjoy loud noises.
If you pair the noise to something pleasurable they will predict something good is about to happen.
If a noise sensitivity is suspected early intervention is important to try and prevent it from spiralling into a phobia.
Some tips for milder phobias:
1. Avoid the noise where possible or block it out with music, shut the blinds and turn the lights on;
2. Provide a hiding spot for your dog (preferably a space they choose);
3. teach your dog calming and coping mechanisms;
4. comfort your dog – remember this will not reward fear but rather alleviate it;
5. provide treats or toys to change your dog’s emotional state; and
6. contact your veterinarian for treatment advice and use medication when recommended.
Felicity Miller BVSc, veterinarian