Your dog is your companion, playmate and sometimes protector. There are other times, though, when you have to protect your dog. If your dog is afraid of loud noises – like thunder, fireworks, car sounds, door slams or even wind – distraction, desensitization, medication or a combination of these may ease his fears and lessen the stress on both of you.
Understand the Cause
Knowing why your dog is afraid of a noise may help you effectively care for him. Some dog breeds are inclined to loud noise phobias, mainly herding varieties, either out of a genetic predisposition or from more acute hearing. If your dog is one of these breeds, be on the lookout for potential adverse reactions to noise so you can ease the fear before it takes over.
Other phobias arise from bad experiences, like being stuck outside during a thunderstorm or having his tail clipped accidentally by a vacuum. An affected dog may always associate loud pops, or even just the change in weather, with fear and abandonment, or the sound of a vacuum with a clipped tail.
If your dog starts to exhibit fear towards a particular noise, for instance thunderstorms, by showing more than a passing interest in it, make a positive association with the sound. When rain falls, start playing with his favorite toy. If his attention drifts toward the lightning or thunder as it begins, work on obedience commands he knows well, overly praising him.
Provide a safe place for a dog with a fully developed noise phobia. If he normally hides under your bed or in the bathroom when you vacuum or fireworks go off, make that location a comfy, preferably sound-proofed, spot with his favorite toys, treats or food. Even if you’re out of the house when the noise occurs, your dog will have a safe place to go.
Behavior modification is a method of desensitizing your dog to the noise he fears. The process is complicated, with the potential to cause more harm if done wrong, and therefore best done under the supervision of a professional. Your veterinarian may recommend medication if all else fails.