How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Loud Noises

How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Loud Noises
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-6 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Does your pup freak out every time he hears a loud noise? Do firecrackers, gunfire, or thunder having him shaking in his skin? While it is considered to be normal for some dogs to be a little skittish around loud noises, it is not normal for them to become so afraid of these noises that they literally become non-functional.  Why does your pup get so scared around loud noises? According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, BvMS, DACVA, DACVB, of Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, no one really knows why.

While there may be many underlying reasons why your dog is scared of loud noises, with a little hard work, you can train your pup to ignore them and remain relaxed around them. The one thing you do need to keep in mind is that you should never fuss over your pup when he becomes scared. All this does is reinforce the behavior instead of teaching him to ignore the noise. 

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Defining Tasks

The most important part of the task is to teach your dog not to react in a negative or frightened manner every time he hears a loud noise. Bear in mind that there are still going to be those rare occasions when the noise is so close or so loud that not only will your dog still jump, but so will you. There are just some noises that will be too loud, period.

The intent of this type of training is to train your dog to ignore loud noises. Remember that not only do you not want to make a big fuss over your pup when he is scared, but you should never scold or punish him for his fear either. One of the best ways to get him used to loud noises is to introduce him to as many noises as possible using things around the house like the vacuum cleaner, a hair dryer, or any number of other loud items. 

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Getting Started

Before you start to train your dog to ignore things like loud noises, he needs to have already successfully learned the basic commands, 'sit', 'stay', 'come', and 'down'. While you may not need these commands specifically to train him not to react to loud noises, knowledge of them demonstrates your pup's ability to learn and follow commands.  You will need a few things to help you with the training.

  • Leash: For better control
  • Treats: For rewards
  • Thundershirt: A special shirt designed to "hug" your pup
  • Toys: Something you can use to distract your pup
  • Rattle: Or some other form of noisemaker that can be used to distract your pup

These are the basic supplies, there may be others depending on the type of training you decide to use. The rest of your supplies includes plenty of time and patience while working with your pup during this training period. Keep working at it and in time your pup will stop trying to tunnel under the bed every 4th of July. 

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The Stereo Method

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1

Record the noise

Start by making a recording of the noises that seem to scare your pup the most.

2

Low rider

Start out playing the recording at a very low volume (one that you can almost not hear). You may not be able to hear it, but to your pup, it will come through loud and clear. At this volume, the sounds shouldn't bother him at all.

3

Turn up the volume

Slowly increase the volume over a period of days. As the volume increases and your pup doesn't react, be sure to praise him and reward him with a treat.

4

Keep it up

Keep slowly increasing the volume over the course of several weeks in very small increments.

5

No stopping

Keep increasing the volume, allowing your pup to get used to it over time. Be sure to praise and treat him at the end of each "training session". If at any time your pup starts to show signs of stress, back off on the volume for a few days before increasing it again at a slower pace. In time, your pup will no longer even notice the sounds and will behave in the same manner during storms, fireworks, or any other type of noise.

The Obedience Training Method

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Waiting for the storm

Since it's loud noises like thunderstorms that startle your pup, you may have to wait for the next one to arrive.

2

Calling the storm

When your dog starts to become nervous with the approaching storm call him over to you.

3

Stepping into the storm

As the storm begins, it's your turn to step in and become the distraction.

4

Riding the storm out

Start running your pup through a continuous loop of all the different commands he knows, like 'sit', 'down', 'stay', 'roll over', 'shake', and anything else he knows. Keep it up until he is no longer paying any attention to the thunder.

5

Reward time

Shower your dog with lots of praise, give him a few treats. This will help to reinforce the fact that ignoring the sounds earns him a reward. Repeat this every time a storm comes through, there is a lot of heavy traffic noise, a thunderstorm, or fireworks and your pup will soon stop worrying about the noise.

The Thundershirt Method

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Go shopping

Go to your local pet store and pick up a Thundershirt or similar item. This is a special vest you will be using throughout this training.

2

Wait until a particularly noisy day

Since you are trying to train your pup to ignore loud noises, you have to either wait for a noisy time when your pup is visibly upset or find a way to create the type of noise that scares your dog.

3

Into the jacket

Place your pup in the jacket and secure it properly. The jacket is designed to literally "hug" your pup. The constant pressure is much like a human hug and can help to calm your pup during stressful times like thunderstorms.

4

Wait the storm out

Watch how your dog behaves during the storm, fireworks show, or other noise. If he settles down and ignores the sounds, be sure to praise him and give him a treat.

5

Rinse and repeat

It may take weeks to reach the point at which your pup no longer frets over the noise, depending on the types of noise he reacts to. Be patient and swift to praise and reward him. In time he will learn to ignore the noise and may even end up sleeping through it.

By Kim Rain

Published: 12/07/2017, edited: 08/18/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Lily

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Years

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Question

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

About a year ago my dog started getting startled by something on walks when it was dark. She wouldn’t move at all unless we turned around to go back home. It did get better to a point that it didn’t happen at all but now, whenever she hears a bang in the distance, no matter if it is dark or not, she gets terrified and doesn’t move. This is unfortunate as for the past week it seems every time I take her out there is a bang. If we are a few minutes into the walk I can usually get her to walk by my side as I read it shows her that I am in charge and she will calm down but if we have just started the walk, she won’t move. Thanks

Jan. 21, 2021

Lily's Owner

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Darlene Stott - Dog Trainer and Groomer

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104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, sometimes when a dog has something going on with their hearing, they react to sounds like loud bangs, silverware, and dishes knocking, etc. My understanding is because the sound is somehow amplified. So first, have Lily's hearing checked by the vet just in case. Distraction when on walks may be the best course of action. When taking Lily for walks, work on her heeling skills. This way, she'll be focusing on you and may not react the same way to a loud bang if it occurs. Take a look here for tips on teaching Lily to heal. All of the methods are great but the Treat Lure Method may be ideal when a loud noise startles her: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. Give her lots of reassurance as you do now, and keep encouraging and praising her when she walks beside you despite being nervous. Good luck!

Jan. 22, 2021

This might make sense because Lily used to get a lot of ear infections when she was younger that we had to treat her for. Thanks for your time.

Feb. 1, 2021

Charlie M.

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Keyser

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pit mix

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7 Years

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My dog is a 7 year old Rescue who is very skiddish. I have chronic back pain and he has a strong tendency to pull, however, he has a very strong tendency to bolt if some sound really scares him. This has happened 2x much to the detriment of my back. He’s getting better at walking on a loose leash but he’s got a ways to go. The bolting is the biggest problem to overcome.

Nov. 12, 2020

Keyser's Owner

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Darlene Stott - Dog Trainer and Groomer

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104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, my apologies for the long delay in reply. I would take Keyser to a session of dog training. Even one course over a 4 week period can work miracles and you will never have to worry about injuring your back. There is also the option of having a trainer come to your home - they can give you pointers on how to make Keyser less skittish and give hands on advice for the bolting. That would be the safest recommendation. If you would like to start some training on your own, I would try and get Keyser to focus on you when out on walks - that may help with him noticing noises. This guide has excellent methods; I would try the Turns Method and also the Treat Lure Method, which will work especially well if Keyser is food oriented. Take a look here and read the entire guide through for excellent advice: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. This guide also has great pointers for helping Keyser to learn to listen, giving him the confidence he needs to bolt less. But do consider in-person training so that you can see first-hand what to do. All the best to you and Keyser!

Nov. 21, 2020


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