Many adult dogs have phobias about loud noises, such as thunder and fireworks. This is mainly the result of not being exposed to the noises during their critical period of learning, two to 14 weeks of age. If your dog already has a noise phobia, or you would like to prevent him from developing the phobia, there are steps you can take — and 4th of July celebrations are less than a month away.
Exposure to Stimuli
Puppies need to be exposed to stimuli as soon as possible. When puppies (and humans) are born, their brains are not fully developed. As a puppy’s brain develops and connections are being formed, she must experience a variety of sights, smells and sounds in order for the maximum number of connections to form.
If a puppy never hears a firecracker or similar noise when she is young, she will not develop a connection in her brain that will enable her to process the sound when she hears it as an adult. This can lead to adverse reactions such as urinating, vomiting, intense fear or aggression.
Introducing a Dog to a Loud Sound
The proper way to introduce or desensitize a dog to a loud sound is gradually.
- Do not force the dog into a “scary” encounter with the noise or stimulus. If done properly, your dog should never feel agitated or frightened during the training.
- Start with a very quiet version of the sound. You can actually buy sound files of thunder, fireworks and gunshots.
- Make sure your dog is having a good time while listening to the sound by feeding him treats, playing with a favorite toy or giving him a belly rub.
- Gradually increase the volume (or your proximity to the sound); always being sure that your dog is relaxed.
- If your dog shows any signs of nervousness (ears back, wide eyes, panting, licking the lips, tail tucked between the legs) lower the volume or end the session.
- One moment of panic can derail all of your work, so be sure to proceed very slowly and only increase the volume if your dog appears to be relaxed.
Many dogs escape from their homes and go missing during thunderstorms or fireworks. Take the necessary steps to ensure that your dog is safe and happy during summer storms and festivities.