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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.
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.
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.
The Stereo Method
Record the noise
Start by making a recording of the noises that seem to scare your pup the most.
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.
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.
Keep it up
Keep slowly increasing the volume over the course of several weeks in very small increments.
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
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.
Calling the storm
When your dog starts to become nervous with the approaching storm call him over to you.
Stepping into the storm
As the storm begins, it's your turn to step in and become the distraction.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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