Noise Fears And Phobias
Many dogs become scared of loud noises and, in some dogs, their fear can develop into a debilitating phobia. Solving this problem takes dedication but it is extremely beneficial to your dog's well being.
Dogs seem to be preprogrammed to become afraid of loud noises, just as humans are programmed to respond to creepy crawlies, snakes, small spaces, dangerous social situations and heights. Noises that scare dogs are usually sudden onset loud noises, such as fireworks, thunder or gunshot. Some dogs are frightened of whooshing noises, such as those made by hot air balloons or air brakes.
Discomfort, fear or phobia?
Some dogs, particularly those of herding breeds, have sensitive ears that can hear sounds from far away. This may have been useful when they worked but in the noisy environments in which we now live, it can be less than useful.
If your dog leaves the room when loud noises occur, or tries to move away from the source of loud sounds, he could just be reacting to the discomfort in his ears, much like we might put our fingers in our ears to reduce the noise.
If your dog reacts fearfully with ears back, tail down, and big eyes (go to ‘Fear And Anxiety’ for more signs of fear), your dog may be worried about the sounds. He is trying to get away from what he perceives as a threat to his well being.
If your dog panics when he hears a loud noise and runs blindly without thought or care about where he goes and cannot be interrupted until later, he may have developed a phobia of noises where his response is way out of proportion to the threat that is actually posed by the experience.
From fear to phobia
Fears can develop into phobias if dogs are exposed repeatedly to very loud, sudden onset noises. If the dog is sufficiently frightened by the noise, it can take just two exposures to develop a phobia.
Dogs, and humans, are more likely to develop a phobia if they find themselves in a vulnerable emotional state. For example, if they are:
- very young or very old
- they are experiencing severe stress – the family have just moved house or had a baby, or all social contact is withdrawn from the dog
- they are ill (e.g. recuperating from operation or dealing with a disease)
- they have a genetic make up that makes them prone to anxiety and fears
What can be done?
Go to Sound Therapy 4 Pets, the website of a company run by veterinary behaviourists Sarah Heath and Jon Bowen, who have produced a comprehensive range of products designed to help specifically with this problem.
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