If your dog hides, runs away, shakes, or vocalizes when they hear a loud noise, they are exhibiting noise aversion signs. Because this condition is so common in dogs, many pet owners believe this behavior is normal. In fact, noise aversion is a treatable anxiety-based medical condition, and dogs experiencing this phobia are likely to feel similar to a human having a panic attack. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers teams know that canine noise aversion (i.e., noise phobia) is underrecognized and undertreated, and we encourage you to learn about this condition, so you can provide relief to your suffering pooch.
Why are some dogs afraid of noise?
Dogs who are afraid of loud noises suffer from noise aversion. Under normal circumstances, when a pet hears a loud noise, they may jump or startle, but quickly recover and go back to their usual business. However, pets with this medical condition respond to a loud or startling sound by showing sustained fear and anxiety, which can be as severe as a human panic attack.
Researchers aren’t sure why some dogs develop noise aversion and others do not. Some veterinary behaviorists theorize that breed and individual genetics play a large role, and dogs who are generally more sensitive to their environment and stress are more likely to develop a noise phobia.
How to recognize canine noise aversion
Dogs who are noise averse usually display similar behaviors each time they hear a scary noise, and these behaviors’ intensity often worsens over time. Each dog is unique, and their noise phobia signs may include:
- Lip licking or excessive yawning
- Hiding or cowering
- Whining or barking
- Urinating or defecating inappropriately
- Attempting escape
Which sounds bother dogs with noise aversion?
The most common noise aversion triggers are fireworks and thunderstorms, but many other sounds can cause a negative reaction. Once aversion to one noise develops, others may follow. Anxiety-causing sounds include:
- Smoke detectors
- Construction noise
- Slamming doors
- Vacuum cleaners
- Crowded events
How can I help my dog feel better during noise events?
The first step to helping your pet overcome their noise phobia is recognizing that these behaviors aren’t normal, and discussing your dog’s response with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Pets with noise aversion are highly likely to have other, concurrent anxiety conditions, especially separation or generalized anxiety. Any anxiety or phobic condition can cause your pet to feel edgy all the time, and chronic anxiety can be equated with suffering. Treatments are available, and they can help your dog feel better overall, and specifically during noise events. Noise aversion treatment options include:
- Pharmaceuticals — Daily anxiety medications help dogs who have general or separation anxiety respond better to behavioral modification techniques and learn to remain calm in their daily life. In addition to daily medications, your veterinarian may recommend you give your dog situational medications during individual noise events. Such medications help relax and/or sedate your dog to reduce their fearful response.
- Management — You can help your dog feel more secure by creating a safe and quiet space for them to go during a noise event. Provide your four-legged friend with a room that is as well-insulated as possible from the noise. In addition, we recommend you play calming music and use pheromones that promote tranquility.
- Behavior modification — You can help your dog by training them to replace their noise-induced anxiety response with a positive one through the desensitization and counterconditioning process. This training process doesn’t work for all pets, and you may need help from a professional trainer, veterinarian, or behaviorist.
- Calming aids — A calming anxiety wrap, head covering, or earmuffs can help your pet feel more secure and reduce anxious reactions.
- Nutraceuticals — Supplements containing L-theanine, alpha-casozepine, and other natural calming agents may benefit pets who have mild noise aversion or anxiety. In addition, your veterinarian may recommend that you give your dog nutraceuticals in combination with harder-hitting pharmaceuticals.
Can I prevent my dog from developing a noise aversion?
You may be able to prevent your puppy or young dog from developing noise aversion by exposing them to a wide range of noises and volumes. Pair these noise exposure sessions with positive rewards, such as treats, petting, praise, or toys. Creating positive associations early on, and continuing to reinforce them later in life, may help prevent a noise phobia problem altogether.
However, if your dog exhibits noise phobia signs, management and medications are key to reducing their fear and stress. Talk with your veterinarian as soon as your dog develops a noise aversion. After your veterinarian begins your pet’s treatment, you must remain consistent with their treatment recommendations and attend all veterinary check-ins. By following this strategy, you can help prevent your dog’s noise aversion from progressing. Unfortunately, some pets with noise aversion continue to get worse over time, despite appropriate interventions.
If your dog exhibits noise aversion, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible, as your four-legged friend’s signs will only worsen over time. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers teams have the expertise to help your pet overcome their noise phobia. Visit our website to find a location near you, and contact us to schedule a noise aversion consultation.