Fear is a prevalent problem in canines, occurring quite frequently. Many people, however, do not seek professional help thinking the condition has little or no solution. Of course, what you should do is get help from a Professional Canine Behavior Specialist. These recommendations should help in the meantime.
Fear is a normal reaction in any species. It is how we guarantee our survival.
Noise phobias are very common among canines, sometimes they are due to lack of socializing those stimuli, or due to sensitivity from a negative experience, or as an inherited trait (fear is a commonly inherited behavior).
But a phobia is disproportionate fear, meaning the magnitude of the reaction is not in keeping with the intensity of the stimulus which provoked it.
The most common reaction among dogs with noise phobias is to hide, trembling and panting, to run away in terror, or get under a bed or in a bathtub.
Believe it or not, these problems can be treated. In order to treat them you should contact a Professional Canine Behavior Specialist, but we give you a few tips to make your dog feel more at ease before a situation that you anticipate will provoke fear (parties with firecrackers, storms, shooting ranges or football matches, etc.).
First you need to find a safe place for your dog. This could be where he already hides, such as a bathtub, under a bed, or under a table, or a new hiding place. You could use a big cardboard box, a dog carrier, or an isolated room. If the dog is under a table, cover it with a big blanket. The dog should have easy access to his hiding place at all times.
Then you need to make the hiding place as quiet as possible. Close the windows and shutters, turn off the lights, cover your dog with a blanket, and play relaxing music at a low volume. It's also important that his place be comfortable: place your dog’s favorite bed there, his favorite toys, even some of your own clothing that will have your smell.
You need to put some effort into this favorite spot, placing your dog's bed there, feeding her there, playing with her there or brushing her if that’s what she likes. You could also hide treats for her, put some interactive toys full of dry food (such as a Kong toy), and reward her when she goes there. Ultimately, do all the things your dog likes in that special place so your dog will go there to feel calm and safe. Never bother the dog when she’s in her safe area.
It's important to understand that when a dog is frightened, hiding helps him to get through the moment more easily, and will enable him to recover faster in similar situations. This is why you should not stop him from hiding.
If your dog's safe place has been adequately prepared, he will go there whenever there is a loud, frightening noise. Nevertheless, if you anticipate an event you could take your dog to his safe place ahead of time and play with him.
In any case, it’s best to play down the importance of the noise and to try to change your dog's negative responses as we have been working on previously. And, of course, DO NOT punish him! I hope these tips have been helpful. Remember that every problem is different and you should always consult a specialist.
Don’t just follow a neighbor’s recommendations or what you were told at the dog park. Your dog is unique and so are her problems. What I’ve described here is not a treatment, but merely a way for your "best friend" to suffer less during noisy events.