Noise fears can kill dogs.
If you own a noise-fearful dog, then it is likely your dog is escaping, damaging itself, destroying your house and that it is tragically and dangerously scared when the noises hit.
Solutions for noise fears (more correctly called noise phobias) are complex and depend on
If your dog’s problem is severe and you are in south-east Queensland you may want to jump straight to a consultation with Dr Cam.
Start by completing this assessment form
Dogs are commonly phobic of:-
If your main concern is your dog’s phobia of thunderstorm, now review this page:-
If your main concern is your dog’s phobias of fireworks, review this page:-
Noise fears are more correctly called noise phobias.
A phobia is where a dog has a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation.
For instance, with humans, Arachnophobia is a persistent and excessive fear of spiders.
So, noise phobias with dogs are a persistent and excessive fear of noises, and events associated with those noises.
Generalisation of the phobia often occurs. For instance, a human suffering from Arachnophobia may generalise that phobia to related situations, such as the shed in which spiders are known to lurk.
Dogs will generalise their phobia of thunder storms to include:-
Also, because storms are associated with a ‘rainy odour’, dogs will detect that odour being wafted in with the early breeze associated with an approaching storm.
Much the same happens with fireworks and other noises.
Let’s look at the solutions to noise-fears by examining a case study from my files.
Whizzer is a five-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier that lives with his ‘parents’ in an elevated location not far from Southbank Parklands , an entertainment precinct in Brisbane, Australia.
The house is also adjacent to a school.
Whizzer experiences three different noise challenges.
Whizzer’s parents work business hours and they live with Whizzer in a two-story brick house.
Whizzer’s phobia is classified as severe.
The biggest problems occur when Whizzer’s parents are at work.
Noises cause Whizzer to repeatedly attempt to escape.
Understandably his concerned owners are as frantic for a solution.
The solution to this severe problem involves
The characteristics of the ‘type of noise’ that worries your dog
While dogs can be equally affected by fireworks, nailing guns, cap guns and similar noises, not all noise present the same characteristics and each needs to be handled differently
A dog will often generalise its fear from one component of the noise to other related components.
For instance, while a dog may initially learn to become fearful of the noise of a storm, it generalises to becoming fearful to, for instance the feel (wind, rain and chill factor)of a storm.
This is why many dogs are fearful in windy conditions when there is no storm present – they presume the storm is on its way.
In the same way, a dog will generalise from the crack of lightening to show an identical reaction to the simple flicking of a light switch and the flashing of a fluorescent tube that switch creates.
The combination is intense and overwhelming for many dogs. This is especially so because of their acute sense of vision, hearing and, especially, smell.
Because the storms are so intense, medication is usually essential for the bad cases.
Explosive noises are a particular nuisance.
Cap guns are often used by children and you don’t know when the neighbour’s Dennis the Menace will fire the dreaded implement. When he does, it will usually occur only for a short time before he runs out of caps or his parents, thankfully, confiscate the device. One of my clients struck a deal with his neighbour’s Dennis the ‘M’. He swapped the cap gun for a water pistol and a twenty-dollar bribe!!! This was money well spent according to his dog as it was terrified of the noise.
Medication is of little use for cap gun phobias but at least the noise can be reproduced easily and desensitising your dog to the noise is therefore easier.
Nailing gun noises are a problem when they occur. They may be predictable because when they occur in a local building, you can bet they will occur regularly over a few weeks until the building is completed. Medications often helps with nailing gun phobias. The medication should be used on a daily basis while the building is occurring and then stopped.
If you live near a firing range or an armed forces reserve, gun and explosive noises can be a dilemma. Firing ranges usually operated at certain, predictable times during the week, such as on weekends, so coping with the problem is easier as you can use either medication or careful housing to ensure your dog is safe.
Providing a soundproof Den is important for dogs with fears of explosions to give them a refuge from the noise.