A lot of dogs are terrified of thunderstorms. Of course, most of them simply cower in the corner. However, one in five dogs have huge noise phobias, which can lead to full-blown panic. Crashing through glass windows and doors, digging down through the carpet at doorways, or even escaping from a fenced yard and running away. In fact, every year, animal shelters take in hundreds of pets spooked by noises as extreme as a thunderstorm – or as common as a bottle shattered on the kitchen floor.
Often, noise phobias are linked to a specific event. Say, a really bad storm, or a smoke detector going off. Other times, the fear progresses. So, a dog who’s afraid of thunder may get worse with each storm and get terrified on stormy days when the barometric pressure drops, and the wind picks up. Dogs can develop a fear of any sound. Like the rustling of a garbage bag, the beep of a microwave, or the whir of a ceiling fan. So, if your dog has a noise phobia, how can you desensitize them?
- Familiarization can dramatically reduce their fears. So, expose your dog to the sound of rain or thunder with nature CDs. Play them quietly at first - for maybe five minutes. Then, gradually increase the volume and duration.
- Studies show that playing slow classical music during “noise events” helps keep dogs calm. It literally slows down their brainwaves, and their heart rates. In fact, some dogs become so calm, they literally fall asleep.
- You can also train a puppy to avoid noise phobias altogether. Experts say that exposure to loud or unexplained sounds before 14 weeks of age can help inoculate a puppy against noise fears.
- People even throw “storm parties.” That way, their puppy learns that really special things happen when it gets noisy. It’s the only time they’re allowed on the couch while you watch TV and they get a special “storm” toy and a yummy treat – like a puzzle ball filled with peanut butter that they’re happy to fiddle with for hours. Bottom line: Make it fun – and they won’t run.