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Hurricane Winds, Thunder and Loud Bangs with a Noise Sensitive Dog

It’s essential to proactively prepare pooches, including dogs who are seemingly solid and unfazed by sudden or loud noises, to have a sense of safety whenever sudden, or potentially scary noises occur. By Certified Dog Trainer and Animal Behavior Specialist Mikkel Becker and DVM Dr. Marty Becker in collaboration with Sure Petcare.

It’s essential to proactively prepare pooches, including dogs who are seemingly solid and unfazed by sudden or loud noises, to have a sense of safety whenever sudden, or potentially scary noises occur.

 

While fear-evoking noises are a year-round occurrence, springtime and  summer mark the onset of ‘scary sound season’. From scary sounds of storms that may include  winds, pounding rain and booming thunder, to noisy construction and loud tree trimming; these are all unsettling sounds that are more likely to occur during these seasons.

 

Even for seemingly easy going dogs with no known noise sensitivity, it’s just as important to help your dog to learn to deal calmly with such noise events to prevent fear from forming, as it takes only one traumatic noise event to start a scary spiral of distress.

 

Unfortunately, many dogs suffer silently while enduring scary sounds because signs of fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) are both under-recognized and under-treated. Hence, dogs may suffer for months, (or even years) through panic inducing noise events before their distress heightens to such a state, that it’s impossible to ignore or hope that the fear will improve on its own.

 

Recognizing fear and unease in the early stages reduces the risk of increased stress and improves the dog’s emotional outlook to recover faster from the fears they face. Specifically, there are two key strategies to better monitor and manage canine sound stress:

 

1. Get accurate, objective feedback on your dog’s emotional and physical well-being: One invaluable tool for assisting in bettering your dog’s behavior response to sounds is use of the behavior and activity tracker, Animo. As both a veterinarian and dog behavior consultant, we’ve both used Animo  for a while to track important indicators of our dog’s emotional state. For instance, with QT Pi Becker, (our family dog), who has known sensitivities to sound, Animo indicated pronounced and progressed distress before it was even evident to the rest of the family. Simply by noting changes in his rest and activity levels, as well as in his level of trembling, which was  noted by Animo’s update sent directly to our cell phone, Dr. Marty Becker was better able to address QT Pi’s stress before it escalated to an even higher state of fear.  Animo was there to watch over QT Pi and send alerts to the family to check in, even while we were otherwise occupied.

 

2. When noting signs of increased noise sensitivity, the first resource for help is talking to your pet’s vet; especially if the animal’s fears have suddenly increased in occurrence or severity:

Often veterinarians can prescribe medications, nutraceuticals, and calming supplements to complement other behavioral efforts. Such veterinary guided additions can help to keep the pet’s body and brain from escalating into a panic or can help an already panic-stricken pooch to calm back down.

 

One way to impart a calmer reaction from your pet when hearing a new, sudden, or startling sound, is to pair high value positives with the unsettling sound. For example, proactively prepare your pooch to remain relaxed during potentially scary sounds by playing recordings of that sound, starting off at a low enough volume that the dog perceives the sound, but does not show a fear response. Then, make the sounds louder in a good way by pairing the recording with an outcome your dog enjoys; like eating their meal or engaging in a game of fetch or tug.

 

In addition, around the house, car, or out on walks, consider ways to keep treats and favorite toys at close hand to pair positives with any sudden or potentially scary noise.

 

Not all dogs will be relaxed enough to play, perform known behaviors, or even take treats. That is when medication, as prescribed by your vet, can help your pet remain calm enough to enjoy positives that are employed and learn new associations and ways of responding.

 

There is a misconception out there that comforting your dog reinforces their fear. But, since we’re dealing with a state of fear, anxiety and stress in your pet that’s causing problem behaviors that are hard to see (trembling, pacing, anxious panting, hiding); anything that helps to reassure them of their safety and well-being isn’t going to worsen the situation. Instead, if the underlying emotional state can be improved by your actions to comfort this is only likely to improve the animal’s underlying emotional state.

 

While some dogs hunker down and hide, dive under the bed or head for the closet during a scary sound event, many others seek out the reassuring presence of their people or other dogs in the house.

 

Note also that a dog in hiding is best left alone and not forcibly removed as a dog in such an extreme state of terror, may be at increased risk of biting someone. Yet many dogs will seek out or come to the call or enticement of their people. Once out from hiding, they can be guided to other tasks that can change their point of focus to one of greater calm.

 

Dogs may also benefit from having a specific settle space that they can be guided to regularly throughout the day to relax. When paired with ongoing positives, such a space can be a place of calm that evokes a sense of comfort and safety even in times of stress.     

 

You can also consider ways to soundproof an area from outside noises. This may be done using an area of the home the dog already likes to retreat to like the bathroom or basement.

 

Lastly, consider ways to reduce your dog’s angst by employing positive soundscapes. Calming music and white noise in combination can help to reduce the risk of exposure to outside noises. For instance, a white noise, like a quiet fan or fountain, may be used in combination with reggae, soft rock, classical, or species specific music to provide a more positive backdrop to help lessen the scare from an outside noise.

 

Additional, free, and veterinary approved help for improving your dog’s emotional response to different sounds can be found at fearfreehappyhomes.com, and specifically, noise phobia help is available at https://fearfreehappyhomes.com/courses/an-introduction-to-noise-phobia/ and https://fearfreehappyhomes.com/courses/canine-noise-phobias-part-2-managing-and-preventing-noise-phobias/.

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