Dogs and noise phobia

Many dogs and other animals may suffer from a condition called noise phobia. Noise phobia is different to a simple fear as it is often severe, and rather than serve a purpose like fear (fear of the tiger- run away and survive!) it is actually a maladaptive behaviour.

A maladaptive behaviour can result in escape behaviours from the property such as breaking through windows, chewing doors, climbing and scaling fences, digging under a fence line etc. which ultimately lead to potential self trauma, damage to the owners property or even serious injury if hit by a car, attacked by another dog etc. while escaping the property.

Physical changes your dog may present with during a noise event- trembling, panting, pacing, crying/vocalising/whining, barking, vomiting, lack of appetite, hypervigilant of surroundings, hyper-attachment to owners (more than usual), escape behaviours, hiding behaviours, dilated pupils & drooling.

Dogs experiencing the noise phobic event are in extreme distress during these times, similar to a human having a panic attack. Dogs have extremely sensitive hearing, so a noise event can sound far louder and scarier to them than to a human. Dogs can also start to display noise phobias at any age, where in the past these dogs never responded in such a severe way. For example, it is not uncommon to see 7- to 10-year-old dogs presenting with noise phobia for the first time.

Dogs also perceive storms earlier than humans do, as they perceive changes in barometric pressure that forebode a storm or thunder activity.

We suggest managing these dogs in the following way:

  • Remove the individual from the noise source - bring the dog inside if your dog is an outside dog. The more the dog is exposed to the sound the worse it will become. These dogs do not adjust to the noise and improve in time- they get worse.
  • Try to be home during a storm event so that you can offer your dog comfort during a noise/ storm phobic event. Your dog is in panic mode and is unable to respond to normal voice cues and requests. If your dog is seeking you for attention and reassurance- offer this to your dog. Try to not over do the comforting and create more drama than already exists- remain calm. You are the calming influence for your dog, so try a ‘no fuss’ approach, yet compassionate and attentive when required. Do not ignore your dog - just offer comfort as and when required.
  • Some dogs liken to hide inside a dark cupboard / under the bed. Allow your dog to do this if it is comforting for them.
  • Thunder jackets or shirts may be of benefit in addition to Adaptil, a dog appeasing pheromone. This can reduce the distress in mild cases and assist these dogs in addition to the above advice. These products are available from good pet stores and vets.
  • Speak with your vet regarding addressing this issue, as it can be very debilitating to your pet as well as dangerous in the severe cases, where escape is likely or self trauma. This is a true welfare issue and should be addressed if this occurs more than once in your pet's life. There are medications available that can be used around these noise or storm events, which can be extremely helpful and reduce the ongoing escalation of these cases. Medical management can be very successful in relation to managing noise phobia - the sooner these cases are managed the better the prognosis. A vet with postgraduate behaviour qualifications can discuss the medical and management options with you and formulate a behaviour management plan for future noise events.
  • Classical or jazz music at low volumes in the background can be helpful at reducing the exposure to the ongoing noise external to the home and at calming your pet (research based).

For further information, contact us

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