Although some dogs have a history of noise-provoked trauma that can explain their inability to cope with loud sounds,there are plenty of dogs with no known history of trauma that can have a phobic relationship to noise. Researchers believe particular breeds of dogs may be more susceptible to noise sensitivity than others, and if you think about it, humans aren’t so different. Loud, unexpected sound triggers the fight or flight response in humans and animals, which causes the heart to pound, the pulse to race, and anxiety to heighten.
Signs of noise-related stress in pets can include taking a potty break in the living room, panting, pacing, drooling, trembling, dilated pupils and incessant barking, any one of which can raise a whole new set of problems. Some pets may try to escape the noise that is stressing them out by acting recklessly – some dog owners have stories of their frightened pups jumping through windows, digging at floors, and even attempting to chew through walls in their urgency to escape the noise.
If they become so agitated by noise that they head for an open window or claw at the floor as if to tunnel out, imagine what the stress is doing to their little hearts and nervous systems.
This Fourth of July, if the fireworks trigger anxiety in your pet, be careful not to do anything to reinforce their reactionary behavior. Prolonged exposure to noise loud enough to trigger anxiety can lead to serious health problems for your pet. Noise sensitive dogs need to learn to cope with noise if they’re going to live long, healthy lives.
When your dog is reacting irrationally to noise, dog behavior experts say any type of response, whether loving and gentle, or angry and punishing will reinforce their poor behavior. Giving your pet any kind of attention, whether positive or negative while he’s responding badly to noise does nothing to help him learn how to cope and manage stress.
Petting or cuddling your pet to get them through the fireworks, thunder storm, or whatever is contributing to their noise-induced anxiety attacks – exactly what I was guilty of doing for Maggie – will provide the dog with no incentive or tools to cope. In fact, it confirms to her that her fears are legitimate, and that maybe the noise can hurt her. Although it might seem cruel not to reach out to your pet when they’re frightened by noise, to do so may only be robbing her of the ability to adjust. Obviously punishment should never be considered an option, and it would do nothing more than elevate the pet’s anxiety level.
My other dog Niles, a rough and ready little Brussels Griffon had no issues with noise. Nothing fazed Niles, there were no dangers too fierce for this curly red-haired, 12 pound superhero-in-his-own-mind; but it pained him to see Maggie feel threatened by noise. Niles was a complete enabler, his instincts to stay close to her and lick her until the noisy threat was gone did her no favors, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I thought it was the cutest thing in the history of the world.