Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oh, the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise...

Photo courtesy of
Public domain images 
Dr. Seus's Grinch, in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, isn't the only one who hates noise. Many dogs suffer from phonophobia, also called ligyrophobia, which is the fear of loud sounds. They might react fearfully to thunder, fireworks, loud mufflers on cars, motorcycles, or even loud voices.

Although Paige doesn't seem to be bothered by loud sounds, my former dog, Mindy, was. Long before a storm would hit, we'd know one was coming because she would begin pacing back and forth, from room to room. Then, as it drew nearer and began to rain, she would scurry upstairs and climb into the tub behind the closed shower curtain, and lay there until the storm was over.

Did you hear that loud noise?
When she was no longer able to 
climb the stairs, because of age 
and arthritis, she would hide behind
the recliners in our living room, or 
try to crawl under an end table or 
any small space that she deemed 
"safe." During the first few days of 
July, when neighborhood teens 
would start setting off firecrackers, 
and during the city fireworks displays (which we could hear at our home from both Burlington and Colchester), she would act very nervous and run for cover.

So, if your dog is a "nervous Nellie," here are a few things you can try that might make her (or him) more comfortable, and the holiday more enjoyable for both of you:
  1. If you plan to attend a fireworks display, leave your dog at home. A frightened dog might nip or try to run away. Better to leave him at home where you know he'll be safe and feel more secure in familiar surroundings. It also might be helpful to leave some soothing music playing to mitigate the impact of the loud noises that disturb the dog.
  2. Some dogs respond well to a Thundershirt which works by applying gentle pressure to help relieve anxiety and calm the dog. The Thundershirt website claims an 80% or higher success rate, and the shirt is available through their website,, Victoria Stillwell's website, and other venues.
  3. There are a number of conditioning techniques that also may be effective in helping your dog be less stressed out in the presence of loud noises. This usually involves a tape or CD with the triggering sounds on it, playing it very softly at first, then gradually increasing the sound level as the dog is able to tolerate it without reacting in a fearful manner. Again, Victoria Stillwell has a 4-CD set called "The Canine Noise Phobia Series," available on her website, which helps to recondition the dog, over time, to associate the sounds with positive feelings rather than fear.
  4. Meet with a trainer or animal behavior specialist if you need assistance in helping your dog overcome his fears.
  5. If all else fails, there are anti-anxiety medications that your veterinarian can recommend. Please do not give your dog any human prescriptions on your own, even if it is one that is also approved for animals, because the vet will need to prescribe the proper dosage for the size of your dog.
What NOT to do:
  1. Don't yell at, scold, or punish your dog for being afraid. He isn't being stupid, ornery, or bad. He's afraid, and yelling will only increase his fear.
  2. Don't try to force the dog to confront his fears. This may only make him more fearful and react by trying to get away or biting whoever is closest to him.
  3. Don't expect the dog to be something he's not. Each dog has his own unique personality. Accept him as he is, not as you want him to be.
  4. Don't get impatient and frustrated if your dog doesn't seem to "get it" right away. If you remain calm, it will go a long way in helping your dog to calm down, though it may take time.
  5. Don't try to go it alone if what you're doing doesn't seem to be working. Get professional help from a trainer, animal behaviorist, or your vet.
If you develop a close bond with your dog, based on mutual respect and affection, he will learn to trust you when those fearful situations occur. Even if his fears don't completely disappear, if he knows he can trust you, they may diminish over time.

Is your dog afraid of something? What have you done to help him overcome his fears? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Paige and I hope all of you and your dogs have a happy, safe Fourth of July! 

Peggy Frezon and Kelly
**NOTE: Coming up this month, I will be interviewing award-winning author Peggy Frezon. Peggy has written two books: Dieting with My Dog and Heart to Heart, Hand in Paw,  and is a regular contributor to "Guideposts" magazine and a staff writer for "Be the Change for Animals." She also writes the web columns "Pawsitively Pets," "Animals4People," and the popular "Peggy's Pet Place." Peggy's stories appear in books such as Animals and the Kids who Love Them, The Ultimate Dog Lover, Miracles and Animals, and more than a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul books. We will also be giving away a copy of Dieting with My Dog to one lucky reader, so be sure to watch for the announcement on Facebook and Twitter for the date of the first of this exciting two-part interview.

[Disclaimer: I have no vested interest in the Thundershirt company,, or Victoria Stillwell's website, and have not received any compensation for mentioning their websites or products. I have provided links to their sites solely for the convenience of my readers.]

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