• Thunder & Other Loud Noises

  • Written By Nico Kramer, Animal Instincts Training

    What would a good action movie be without tires screeching, sirens wailing and of course, the BOOM of big explosions! While these are all things we consider fun and exciting (at least in a movie) our dogs often find them very frightening. Dogs can become nervous around unknown loud sounds like thunder, cars back firing and fireworks.

    Typically, the behavioral problems that arise from this generally fall into one of two areas; destruction and/or escaping. Because of the traumatic nature that some dogs face when confronted with these sounds, they may try to escape the noise by hiding. If this doesn’t work, they may try to “dig” or destroy things either in an attempt to get away from the sound, or out of sheer panic. Just the physical activity of chewing or pawing will sometimes calm the restlessness of the dog.

    While this in itself is a serious issue, it can turn into something even more serious. Dogs can start to associate unrelated things with the sound like wind, blowing leaves, even certain smells or people depending on what is or has happened when they initially became afraid.

    Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help easy your pet’s nerves. Below I have a few tips on how to stop the behavior before it starts, and a few tips on how to help your pet if they are already afraid of sounds like thunder.

    If you have a new puppy try these types of things to help them get used to potentially scary sounds.

    1. Play with your puppy in a happy and fun way before, during and after a sound. If they jump from a clap of thunder immediately do something to engage in play. Don’t overly “baby” the puppy, instead roll around or wrestle or play fetch indoors with lots of positive association!
    2. When you are away, leave a TV on, preferably with a TV show or movie that has a lot of action. Be sure the sound isn’t up too loud. You can also use environmental cds with thunderstorms on them.
    3. If you know a storm is coming and you won’t be home that day, consider doggie daycare or seeing if a friend can come over to play with your puppy during the storm.

    If you currently have a dog that shows anxiety during storms try these tips.

    1. Create a “den” for your dog to go to when a storm approached. Remember, this has to be someplace your dog feels safe. Dogs typically like smaller, enclosed spaces, so maybe set some blankets or a sleeping bag in a closet with a light on, in a hall closet.
    2. Consider using a radio or TV to help block out sounds. Surprisingly this can help as well.
    3. Try to stay calm yourself. Remember, your dog looks to you for guidance and leadership, if your panic stricken, chances are your dog will be too
    4. There are new products on the market to help comfort dogs like the Thunder Shirt, etc. They are made to apply pressure on a dogs body to help relieve stress. The company reports about an 80% success rate at helping to reduce stress.
    5. For serious cases, talk with a canine trainer or behaviorist about desensitization and counter conditioning. These programs have pretty good success, but must be continued or relapses can occur.
    6. As with puppies, try something fun! If the dog is excitable (like jumping up on you a lot during a storm) try working on basic behaviors like sit and down. Try playing games and use food rewards to show that good things can happen during storms.

    Published with permission from Nico Kramer, Animal Instincts Training