We all know that dogs have much stronger hearing than people do and, for some pups, this can create a problem. When dogs are fearful of noises, they live in a world of constant sound and stress.
Fortunately, most dogs can be taught to relax slightly and, over time, can be desensitized slightly to the noises they previously found so frightening.
Teaching Your Dog to be More Confident around Noises
The process of decreasing a dog’s noise-related fear comes down, in large part, to decreasing her sensitivity. Many dogs are afraid of guns, initially, but when bird-dog puppies begin training in kennels, they undergo a process of desensitization in which guns are fired around them. The dogs are taught to be unconcerned by the noise because they know it will not bring them harm.
With this in mind, it is important for pet parents to apply these principles to their own fearful dogs. By providing a gentle environment of immersion therapy in which the dog is exposed to the fearful noise but not harmed by it, handlers can begin to re-work their pups and alleviate the fear.
To begin, start by controlling the noise that your pup fears. If the dog flinches every time a door slams, consider having one member of your family hold the dog while someone else opens and shuts the door gently. When the dog starts to become fearful, reward her with plenty of treats, pets and verbal praise. Keep opening and shutting the door until the dog relaxes and stop as soon as the dog begins to show signs of non-reactivity. Reward the dog and do not repeat the lesson for several days.
As the dog begins to become comfortable with gently opening and shutting doors, begin slamming the door louder while still providing praise and positive reinforcement. Although the dog may be afraid of the door, she will learn that the noise will not harm her and, eventually, the dog will become more comfortable.
While undergoing this training, be sure to exercise great patience with your dog. To the dog, this fear is very real and the training process requires a great deal of trust and faith on the part of the dog. Keep in mind that this can be easily ruined by an impatient or pushy attitude; do your best to soothe your dog’s discomfort from a place of empathy.
Moving Forward With a Noise Sensitive Dog
It is important for pet parents to understand that noise-sensitive dogs may always be noise-sensitive. Certain breeds, like Australian shepherds, are more sensitive to noises in general and will often react more drastically to loud noises than other dogs. Dogs that have been traumatized by a specific noise will likely always remember this and may have a difficult time fully moving on. Regardless of where your dog falls on the spectrum, most pups can be trained to become slightly less fearful of noises, even if they never get over their noise sensitivity entirely.