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What is Fear of Noise?

Dogs can develop fears and phobia to many things including other dogs, inanimate objects, people, and in some cases, loud noises. The specific dog’s fear may be generalized to any sound, or it may be specific to one type or category of sound and can it be triggered by several circumstances including trauma, underexposure when young, and breed disposition. Many fear-related behaviors can be managed with behavioral conditioning and training. However, some dogs may need additional help such as medications and to control their actions and reach their full potential.

Dogs may develop fears to sound for many reasons. Although behavioral conditioning and training may help in the majority of circumstances, medications may be recommended for severe reactions.

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Symptoms of Fear of Noise in Dogs

Dogs who are experiencing fear, either from loud noises or from other stimuli, may show some of the following behaviors:

  • Aggressive chewing
  • Biting
  • Cowering
  • Ears held back
  • Escape behaviors
  • Exaggerated yawning
  • Excessive vocalizations
  • Frantic tail chasing
  • Heavy panting
  • Holding head lower than back
  • Housetraining accidents
  • Hypervigilance
  • Irritability
  • Licking of nose and face (with no food present)
  • Nipping
  • Pacing
  • Punching with the muzzle
  • Showing the whites of the eye
  • Startling
  • Submissive rolling over
  • Tail tucked under
  • Tension of the face and lips
  • Trembling
  • Whites of the eye turning pink or red

Types

Any loud noise may cause dogs to become fearful.

  • Fireworks - Fireworks are one of the most common noise phobias for dogs; the sound of the fireworks may be exacerbated by the random seeming flashes of light and the smell of gunpowder 
  • Gunshot - A fear of gunshots is more frequent in dogs that have experienced traumatic events related to a gun, but the loud sound and smell of gunpowder can cause fear in any dog that isn’t accustomed to it 
  • Thunder - The fear of thunder and storms is relatively common in dogs and the animal’s anxiety levels may be increased by the flashes of lightning and the electricity in the air; some dogs may be comforted by wearing a vest designed to ease your pet’s anxiety
  • Yelling - Dogs may become particularly fearful of humans who yell and shout if they are raised in a violent household

Causes of Fear of Noise in Dogs

The causes of anxiety and other mental imbalances in dogs are a combination of nature and nurture. Some of the possible causes of noise phobias can include: 

  • Developmental factors - Dogs that were not exposed to loud noises when they were younger can easily develop a fear of them when they experience them as adults 
  • Environmental factors - This is particularly relevant for fear reactions that are related to disorders like PTSD or depression; dogs who have served in the military, like their human counterparts, are more likely to develop PTSD and noise phobias may develop due to their association with negative experiences 
  • Genetic predisposition - Some dogs may have a genetic predisposition to develop fears related to noise; dog breeds that may be predisposed to noise aversion and phobias can include: 
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Border Collie
  • German Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Shetland Sheepdog 
  • Medical issues - Medical issues such as thyroid dysfunction, hormonal disorders, and cognitive dysfunction syndrome, may lead to an overall increase in anxiety and fears, including the fear of noise

Diagnosis of Fear of Noise in Dogs

When you bring your dog into the veterinarian’s clinic to address a phobia, such as fear of loud sounds, they will typically request a behavioral history. Information that is likely to be included in a complete behavioral history would include any information regarding the animal’s gender, breed, and age as well as the frequency and circumstances surrounding any fear related episodes. Additional statements regarding the intensity of the episodes, how your dog behaved once the loud sounds were over, and information about whether the dog is showing fear for all types of loud sounds or just certain types of sound will also be requested. 

The examining veterinarian will also want to ensure that there are no medical components contributing to the animal’s reaction to sound. A thorough physical examination will usually be completed and will typically include ordering standard diagnostic tests like a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. These tests can help to uncover many of the medical conditions which may cause your dog to be over-excitable in general.

Treatment of Fear of Noise in Dogs

Treatment for phobic behaviors will depend on both the severity and the underlying trigger for the behavior. Aggression is rare due to a noise phobia but when it occurs, it can be a potentially dangerous situation and should be addressed by a veterinary professional. Treatment for dogs who are experiencing excessive fear related to noise should be a cooperative effort between the animal’s owners and a professional trainer or behaviorist. Scolding your dog for fearful behavior may actually enforce their feelings and may possibly increase the chances that fearful behavior will turn into aggressive or phobic behavior.

One of the training methods that may be effective for treating fear disorders is known as desensitization, a method in which treats and praise are used in conjunction with the presence of the loud sounds that cause the fear thereby reducing the fear of it. Regular obedience training may also be an effective method for mitigating fears and phobias and may be utilized to distract the dog from negative stimuli in a technique known as a counter-conditioning treatment. In some cases, behavioral therapy and training are not enough to calm the patient and anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, such as diazepam or Prozac, may be employed to calm your companion.

Recovery of Fear of Noise in Dogs

Dogs that have experienced fear and anxiety for long periods of time may be harder to treat than dogs who have recently developed the trait, and some dogs may never completely get over their fear. Some medications may be prescribed to help with anxiety issues include: 

  • Benzodiazepine derivatives - This category of drugs includes medications such as Valium and Xanax are included in this category of drugs, which are frequently effective for the temporary relief of anxiety and fear as these medications act relatively quickly, although dogs can build up an immunity to these drugs
  • Tricyclic anti-anxiety medications - Medications such as Clomicalm and Elavil fall into this category and are commonly used to treat chronic anxious and obsessive behaviors in canines but may cause troubling side-effects, particularly when weaning the patient off of the drug 
  • Dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel - A newer drug, more commonly known as Sileo, is a nonsedating anti-anxiety medication specifically designed for dogs with noise aversion