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Helping Pets Cope With Noise

The most common behavior problems associated with fear of loud noises are destruction and escaping. When your dog becomes frightened, the pet tries to reduce fear and may try to escape to a place where the sounds of thunder or firecrackers are less intense. If your dog feels less afraid by leaving the yard or going into a certain room or area of the house, then the escape or destructive behavior is reinforced because it successfully lessens the fear.

For some dogs, just the activity or physical exertion associated with one of these behaviors may be an outlet for their anxiety. Unfortunately, escape and/or destructive behavior can be a problem for you and could also result in physical injury to your dog or cat.

The best thing to do is to create a safe place for your pet to go to when the noises arise that frighten. Remember, this must be a safe location from the pets perspective, not yours. Notice where your pet goes (or tries to go) when frightened. If possible, give access to that place. If trying to get inside the house, consider installing a dog or cat door. If the animal is trying to get under your bed, give her access to your bedroom.

You can also create a secret hiding place or hole that is dark, small, and shielded from the frightening sound as much as possible. Encourage your pet to go there when you’re home and the thunder or other noise occurs. Consider using a fan or radio near the spot to help block out the sound. Feed your pet in that location and help the animal associate the spot with other “good things” happening there. The animal must be able to come and go from this location freely. Confining the pet in the secret hiding place or hole will only cause more problems.

The “safe place” approach may work with some dogs, but not all. Some dogs are motivated to move and be active when frightened and “hiding out” won’t help them feel less fearful.

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