Noise phobia is an excessive fear of a sound that results in the dog attempting to avoid or escape from the sound. It’s an irrational, intense and persistent fear response that can develop at any age and in any dog breed.
When afraid, a dog’s normal instinctive behavior is to try to escape from the noise, or seek shelter to avoid danger. But things can go awry when dogs overreact to sounds that don’t represent danger.
Characteristic behavior can include but may not be limited to hiding, urinating, defecating, chewing, drooling, panting, pacing, trembling, shaking, and barking. A fearful dog might seek out his human family, try to escape the noise by jumping through windows or chewing through walls, or run away.
There are no hard and fast figures on how many dogs suffer from noise phobia. However, according to the American Animal Hospital Association and their national web conference on managing separation anxiety, 40 percent of dogs with noise phobia also experience separation anxiety.
The most common causes of noise phobia are fireworks and thunderstorms, but dogs may develop a fear of any sound no matter how inconsequential. Even a squeaky door being opened, someone using a fly swatter or a fan being turned on can provoke a reaction from a noise-phobic dog. And, the more exposure a dog has to a frightening noise, the more intense his phobic response is likely to become.
Although we don’t know why some dogs sleep through loud noises; others panic. This is in part genetic and part learned behavior.
With New Year’s Eve quickly approaching, you’ll want to consider your pet’s noise phobia when you make your plans.
Here are some tips to help keep your dog calm, making for an easier holiday for both of you. Some of these apply to thunder phobias as well.
Leave your pet at home.
You might think that having Fido with you might help ease his stress, but the combination of unfamiliar surroundings plus the sound of fireworks is doubly scary. Also, if your pet is outdoors, he may well make a run for it, so keep him inside for the duration of any fireworks shows.
Tire your pet out.
The more tired a pet is, the calmer he’ll be in the evening—and thus less bothered by the loud booms of fireworks. Be sure to take your dog out for an extra-long walk on New Year’s Eve morning, and factor in some extra playtime with your kitties.
Make a safe, secure space for your pet.
Before you leave for the evening’s festivities, make sure to set up your pet in a safe, comfortable, calming space, like a bedroom or a crate. Keep windows and doors closed to prevent any potential escape, and make sure your pet has a cozy bed, his favorite toys and enough food and water to last throughout the night.
Create a distraction.
If you’re home when fireworks are going off, redirect your pet’s attention by throwing his favorite ball or another well-loved toy. Not only will you distract your pet, but you may help him associate the noise with something positive like play and attention.
“Soundproof” your space.
A little white noise can help block out the worst of the fireworks. Leave the television or radio on, or just turn on a fan to help sound-sensitive pets get through the evening.
Make sure your pet has identification
This one is key—it’s not a coincidence that missing pets cases spike around New Year’s Day and July 4th. Dogs and cats can get so spooked by fireworks that they try to escape, and many sadly succeed. A microchip or collar and tag with identifying information can help your pet be returned to you more easily should the worst happen. If your pet does run away, get the word out to animal control immediately.
Talk to your veterinarian.
If your pet is especially anxious about fireworks, thunder, or other loud noises, schedule a consult with your vet for further ideas. There are several options for making them less anxious. He or she might suggest body wraps, herbal calming agents or even anti-anxiety drugs to help your pet cope