Dog terrified of loud noises

My dog has a severe phobia of loud noises. Thunder, fireworks and firecrackers are the worst.

I say severe because, if not closely watched, she will try to break out of a window in her panic. She destroys metal crates when she’s lost her mind with terror.

I am at a complete loss as to what to do with her. She completely loses her mind.

Any advice?

One of our dogs had the same issue. This is one where the answer is medication. Rescue Remedy worked for awhile. Melatonin worked better. But with a case as severe as our guy’s was, it actually took a veterinary prescription of valium.

I don’t half feel sorry for animals on these nights. I’m not sure what must be worse for them: the hours long, drawn-out experience of Nov 5th* - or July 4th, in the US’s case. - or the sudden, explosive barrage of midnight, NYE, but it’s a shame our human enjoyment as to be at such a cost. Any chance of a quiet firework, inventors? I mean, do we really need the “BANG’s”? I’d be happy with just those pretty patterns in the sky, or at ground level, even.

  • Actually, Bonfight Night is actually 2 nights long now, as many ‘official’ exhibitions take place the day before.

The sound is part of the attraction for a lot of people, including me. And while I’m no expert, given that we are talking about controlled explosions in many cases, I think you couldn’t make them much quieter without making them not work at all.

Hey, I don’t mind a “PSHHEEEEWWWWWWWWWWW!” and a “WEEEEEEEEYOOWM!”, but those sub-sonic “THUDDOOOMPH’s” do nothing for me.

p.s. Besides annoy me!

Don’t know if this will work in your situation, but here’s what I did with my dog, who had severe separation anxiety and who fought the crate. A bit different than being terrified of loud noises, of course, but you might be able to apply the same techniques during periods of noise:

My dog always freaked out when I left or arrived home, and he loathed being crated–he seemed to think it was punishment. But if I didn’t crate him, he’d destroy the house. He also seemed claustrophobic. I adopted him when he was six, so I have no idea how the anxiety problem originated. I suspect he’d never been left alone in a house before–no way did someone live with his destruction for six years. None of the standard advice was helping, so I tried a different approach.

When I’d get home from work, rather than letting him explode out of the crate (he’d run around the house destroying things in the process), I’d put him on lead and take him into the kitchen where he couldn’t hurt anything. I’d sit on a chair in the middle of the room and let him freak out all he wanted–but he couldn’t go far because of the lead. While he was doing this, I did yoga breathing through my nose–slow, deep breaths that were noisy enough to hear. My idea was that he didn’t know how to calm himself, and I was going to teach him how to relax. He loved ear massages, so in addition to the above, any time he got close and calmed down even a little, I’d reach out and massage an ear–even if it only lasted for a second or two before he zinged away again.

I did this every single time I came home for weeks. It was exhausting, but it worked. I finally got him to the point where he didn’t explode out of the crate and destroy things. I’d make him sit before opening the door, and when I opened it, he’d run out and straight for the back door. Then I’d let him in the yard to run off the ya yas. When he’d come in, he’d still be excited to see me, but he wouldn’t destroy things and it wasn’t over the top, full-on freak out like it had been.

Anyway, you could try something like this, only during periods of noise. If you can arrange for noisy periods that would be best, though, because I think if you try this sporadically, it won’t work.

To address the crate issue, how big is the crate? I had a big dog, so the crate was big enough for both of us. I actually got in the crate with him a few times and just hung out for an hour or two. I’d start out by doing ear massages and petting him, then we’d settle in to a nap. This really helped–he stopped fighting the crate once he realized I wasn’t making him stay someplace I wouldn’t go myself.

I was a little cautious about getting into the crate at first, because I was worried about getting hurt if he started freaking out. I didn’t do the crate part of things until I was seeing a lot of improvement with the yoga breathing and ear massages calming him. The first time I got in the crate with him, I left the door open, and I started with me closest to the door so I could get out if needed. He never fought it with me in it, though, so I did a couple of sessions with the door closed. Of course, the first time I closed and latched the door, I panicked for a moment hoping I could open it again from the inside, so it would be best to have someone else around to confirm if you try this.

Anyway, all of this worked. He could never be trusted loose in the house if I was gone, but the crate became a safe place he trusted to stay in when I left. The really cute thing is that he learned to yoga breathe. During our sessions on lead, he’d start breathing loudly through his nose as he calmed down. And for quite sometime thereafter, I’d hear him do the yoga breathing on his own every once in a while while he was relaxing. If I heard him do it, I’d do it too in order to reinforce the idea of calm.

Good luck. I know how frustrating it is to deal with anxiety. I loved my dog, but I don’t ever want another one with that severe a problem. I had him well-managed, but it took a lot of effort to maintain that.

We have one with the same issue. She is terrified of fireworks, and had a pretty traumatic experience at the dog park on the 4th of July that’s scarred her for life. However, i’ve found what works wonderfully for her is just cuddling. Seriously. When the noises start, we cuddle up on the couch and I let the 65lb baby crawl into my lap. After a little bit of freaking and shaking, she begins to absorb the calm vibes from me and settles down. She always stays alert and snaps up at every bang, but manages to keep seated and in a neutral state of mind. occasionally we will feed her special treats during this time to distract her. French fries are a favorite that work well. This may take a while. For the first few storms, she nearly had to be held down. but eventually she realized that she would be safe with me.

That is a really excellent post, Lavendar Falcon. The main thing to remember about dogs is that they totally pick up on the behavior of the people around them. Even if you think you’re playing it cool, but underneath you’re nervous about the dog freaking out, the dog’s anxiety just feeds on that anxiety and keeps amplifying in a circle. The yoga breathing thing is awesome, because it works to keep you calm as well as giving the dog a calming behavior to pick up on. Dogs are funny the way they imitate behaviors–mine has always grown up with a cat (or two) in the house, and he acts like a cat. When you see a 90lb Weimaraner walking across the back of the couch. . .

We had a dog that hated storms and fireworks…do you have a basement? We put him down there when it stormed/people were setting off fireworks, and after awhile he would go down there on his own when things got loud.

Thanks, troub! That’s exactly why I hit on the idea. People kept telling me to stay calm, but how do you avoid tensing up when there’s a 60 lb dog running around like a maniac? I originally started yoga breathing to keep myself calm. I still wasn’t getting anywhere though, and we hit a crisis where I was on the verge of giving up.

The vet offered meds, and I thought, how in the heck will the dog learn to be calm if I dope him up? The next step was to realize that maybe the dog had no concept of how to calm himself down, and he needed to be trained, just as with everything else he had to learn. The previous owners hadn’t taught him to sit or walk on lead or anything. I’d forgotten about that part when I posted, but doing a lot of basic obedience training also helped. It improved his confidence in me and helped him focus.

I have a prescription drug I give Jasmine when I know it’s going to be loud (7/4, NY). I let her pick a hiding place in the house where she can “hide”, and I go check on her periodically, and pet her.

One of my dogs is like that. We tried to crate her in quiet, dark places, that worked for a while then she got worse. She destroyed like 5 dog crates and 3 doors.

Now we have a prescription for ace from our vet, a fairly common tranquilizer. If we know a thunderstorm is coming, or on days like July 4th or NYE, she gets a pill earlier on, before the noises start, and then we just keep her near us. As long as she gets a little doped up before the noises, she’s completely fine. She’ll follow me around a little more than usual, but she relaxes and sleeps it off.

Yup, doggie downers.

I’m not a fan of doping myself or anyone else, but with this particular dog we had tried everything. She BROKE OUT OF a sturdy, heavy-duty crate. Left on her own, she scrambled around the house overturning furniture and breaking things. We tried taking her to the basement, comforting her, ignoring her (to avoid positive reinforcement of the fear response), covering the crate, lights on, lights off, you name it. Nothing worked.

Talked to the vet, and he gave us a supply of doggie downers. I don’t know exactly what they were, but we would give her a light dose before a storm and she’d just lie down quietly and snooze through the whole thing.

Thank you all very much for your replies. I think I’m going to talk to the vet about some meds. She’s too out of her mind for any type of relaxation techniques but maybe if she’s doped up a bit she’ll be able to respond to me better.

Thanks again. I feel a little bit better. Last night was brutal, the firecrackers went on until 2am. She’s just exhausted today.

My old shepherd during fireworks or storms. jumped into the tub and shook until they went away. It was sad .

Can I suggest a book? Booklet actually. I haven’t read this particular one, but I have 2 of Patricia McConnell’s other booklets and one of her books and I would be suprised if this one wasn’t helpful. She’s a wonderful trainer.

Slow desensitization might help, but it sounds like the dog is VERY noise sensitive. In order to get her to associate the noises with something positive (like a really tasty treat or positive reinforcement of ANY sort) you’d have to get her calm enough to even consider it in the first place. It sounds like she freaks herself out enough that getting her there would be impossible.

I’d recommend pharmaceutical intervention as part of a desensitization program. if you can mellow out the dog so she doesn’t freak out, then teach her to associate the scary noises with something VERY pleasurable – like super-high value treats and happy-fun upbeat-time with you, she may eventually turn the corner. Some dogs remain noise-sensitive even when weened off the drugs but the desensitization helps tremendously. Others remain dependent on the drugs… but it’s way better than watching your beloved pet freak out, drool, pant and work themselves into a frenzy.

Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from anxiety disorders :wink: And yes, some vets will prescribe diazepam (valium) for situations just like these…

Since reading some of the replies I’ve done a bunch of research about meds for dogs. I’ve discovered that vets will prescribe ssri’s in these situations. I think that is exactly what she needs.

And you’re right Elenfair, it would be impossible to give her any sort of reinforcement while she’s in the middle of the anxiety.

I’m hoping that once she’s on some meds, I’ll be able to at least communicate with her and show her that loud noises=super duper special treats and playtime with the super special ball!

Paxil played a major part in literally saving my life a few years ago, so I have no qualms about putting her on something. Things left as they are could result in her death if she smashes herself through a window or has a heartattack from sheer terror.

Yeah, ace is the prescription Jasmine gets. She’s absolutely a-okay unless there’s sudden loud noises.

We had a less positive experience with ace. Our guy was a mean drunk on ace. His normal character was soft, verging on submissive. On ace, he was ready to pick a fight with any other animal in the menagerie and thought seriously about challenging the humans. Valium worked much better for him. YMMV