Teaching Your Dog Not to Fear Loud Noises

Teaching Your Dog Not to Fear Loud Noises

Prairie Storm Clouds ominous weather Saskatchewan Canada

Loud noises such as fireworks, thunder, and traffic are some of the most frequently cited fears given by dog owners. It is natural for some dogs to be fearful of loud noises, however some dogs are so traumatized by these noises that they are completely unable to function.

Dogs that display excessive fears or phobias such as these can be a danger to themselves and those around them. Dogs might manifest their fear in self-destructive and damaging ways like slinking under the couch or the bed and getting stuck. They can also react in ways that are damaging to the home: urinating or defecating on the carpet, chewing up favorite items, barking incessantly. These reactions are often worse when the owner is not home.

One thing that is hard for many dog owners to understand is that soothing or stroking a dog that is displaying fear is exactly the wrong thing to do. While it’s natural to attempt to calm a fearful dog, to the dog you are rewarding him for being afraid. The dog likes the sound of your voice, likes the petting, and concludes that he has the best thing by acting afraid. This only makes a bad situation worse.

The most effective technique when the dog displays fear is simply to ignore the dog. It is important to observe the dog during this time so that he or she does not harm themselves but ignoring the dog and letting him work out the fear on his own is suggested. When you do leave the home, you will want to make sure that there is nothing the dog can get stuck under since fear-inducing random noises can pop up at any time.

A dog that is severely afraid of thunderstorms and other loud noises may need to be confined to a single room or even a crate for an interval of time. After the dog feels safe, he might be able to cope with his fears better. It may be a struggle to teach a dog not to be afraid of loud noises and thunderstorms, but it is important that the dog at the very least, is capable of managing his fears without being destructive to himself and to his environment.

Utilizing Distraction
Much as magicians use sleight of hand to hide their ricks so must owners practice the art of distraction to take their dog’s thoughts off of their fear. For example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms and you know a storm is coming, collect a few of your dog’s favorite toys and get ready for the misdirection.

The fact is, your dog probably knows the storm is on the way before you do. Whenever you see your dog display fear, use the collected toys and get him to play. Very fearful dogs may be reluctant to play but it is important to try all the same. Often a few treats can be good distraction as well. Attempt buying a type of toy-ball that holds treats or biscuits and encourage your dog to chase it.
Attempt to play with your dog every time a thunderstorm is in the forecast. This can begin to implant good memories and these can sometimes replace the fear memories that triggered the dog to be afraid of thunderstorms in the first place.

Desensitizing Your Dog’s Fear
Desensitization is a highly effective way to deal with phobias and fears in humans and it can be very effective for dogs and other animals as well. Desensitization involves introducing the dog to small amounts of whatever noises frighten him. For example, if the dog is afraid of thunder, try tape recording your next thunderstorm and play it back slowly when the dog is relaxed. Reward the dog for not exhibiting fear responses. If he does present fear responses, do not comfort or soothe him but simply ignore him.

This sort of desensitizing training can be remarkably effective for some dogs but it is going to take lots of patience and hard work. Fears of thunder, fireworks, and other loud noises are not always easy to cure.

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http://www.guidedogs.org/