5 ways to help your dog cope with noise anxiety

JERSEY CITY, NJ - JUNE 8: Fireworks celebrating the annual Gift of Life cancer gala light up the sky in front of the skyline of midtown Manhattan and the Empire State Building in New York City on June 8, 2023, as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - JUNE 8: Fireworks celebrating the annual Gift of Life cancer gala light up the sky in front of the skyline of midtown Manhattan and the Empire State Building in New York City on June 8, 2023, as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images) /

Have you ever wondered why a small noise caused your dog to react a certain way? While it might worry you or even frustrate you when a little sound sets off noise anxiety in your dog, you have to remember a couple of things: Your dog doesn’t know what the noise is immediately like you do, and their hearing is far more sensitive than yours.

You may be aware that dogs commonly don’t like the sounds of thunderstorms and fireworks, but even something like a vacuum cleaner can set off a particularly anxious dog. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to help your dog overcome their fears, but you can tailor a coping plan to help desensitize them according to their specific needs.

Why Do Dogs Have Noise Anxiety?

Noise phobia in dogs can develop for several reasons, but often, it develops before they’re two years old and can continue into adulthood if they aren’t desensitized to a certain noise or situation. A dog who is reactive to one loud noise may have a distaste for other loud noises. Around one in three dogs has an aversion to certain noises, meaning you might be dealing with a noise-reactive dog who needs a little comfort or desensitization.

Some dogs may have noise anxiety due to stressful or traumatic events. For example, if a dog previously experienced a house fire, they may react to the high-pitched beeping of smoke detectors because it reminds them of a fearful moment.

Even humans react to stressful events similarly. With post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a person may appear “too” startled at a certain noise or in a given situation to most people who don’t have the same trauma, though their reaction makes sense to them. If you notice your dog stressing out over a certain noise, you should target that sound and work to desensitize them toward it — showing them that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Sound Sensitive Dog Breeds

You may never be able to tell whether sound anxiety will affect your dog since fear is so prevalent. However, some breeds do display a greater likelihood of being affected adversely by sound, according to a 2015 study. Knowing the sound-sensitive dog breeds might help you make a decision when you adopt dogs in the future, and it could help you ensure you create the best environment possible for your pup.

Some of the breeds that are most bothered by noises, according to this study, are:

  • Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Norwegian Buhund

Overall, the type of noise anxiety your dog has may also link to their breed. For example, the study also found that certain breeds, like Poodles and types of Retrievers, often have a phobia of shooting noises. You should try to research everything you can about a breed before you adopt a certain dog.

If you live in an area with a lot of noise, you might want to opt for one of the dog breeds that don’t display as much noise anxiety, like a Boxer or Great Dane. You might also opt for soundproofing a room your dog often stays in or seeks comfort in. Soundproofing requires different materials for the areas you want to soundproof, and you can always add more to a soundproofed room if you notice that a room doesn’t absorb as much noise as you’d like.

How to Treat Noise Phobia in Dogs: 5 Ways

Noise anxiety can be tricky to take care of. However, there are ways to make dogs feel comfortable. You only need to learn how to treat noise phobia in dogs to properly care for your pup. You may also want to keep your dog away from big festivals or parties where there may be loud noises, as much as you may want them by your side. Here are a few suggestions on how to best take care of your dog when they’re afraid.

1. Provide a Safe Haven

Dogs like to have somewhere to go when they feel afraid. If you treat their crate like their room, your dog will associate it with positive feelings instead of punishment and seek it out when worried or scared. Dog crates can be handy in several situations when you need to keep your dog safe from certain things. You shouldn’t use a crate when your dog appears to be in distress, so allowing them to go to the crate of their own volition is a better idea. That way, your dog will also be soothing themselves through the fear.

2. Don’t Make a Big Deal About It

Unfortunately, as much as you want to cuddle your dog and tell them everything will be okay, you might actually be hindering their growth process. When you pet your dog, it reinforces that they did something right and you love them. Being a strong, silent presence for your dog during a time of fear may help them understand that there’s nothing to be afraid of, rather than you unintentionally reinforcing that their fearful behavior is good.

Some dogs do like pressure when they feel afraid. Try sitting against or leaning against your dog gently if they like to feel you near them for support. Alternatively, you might try a vest that will apply a light amount of pressure to comfort your dog when you’re unable to.

3. Opt for Background Noise

Background noise might just be loud enough to drown out the sounds that scare your pet. Try to find something soothing you can play for them, like nature sounds, or find a noise they don’t mind to drown something out. Background noise, when paired with other things to make a room seem less scary, can help a dog relax and realize there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Work with what you have. For example, a bathroom fan might be a good idea for a scared dog who prefers to hide away in the bathroom. You might also opt for starting a TV show for them a few hours before you think the loud noises will begin so they can associate that noise with comfort rather than something to cover up their fear.

4. Practice Daily With Your Dog

To desensitize them to a certain noise, you can create a simulated version of the scary situation for your dog to get used to. For example, if vacuum cleaners scare your pup, you can play the noise in the background at a low volume. They may slowly grow accustomed to the noise, so you can reward them and potentially increase the volume slightly. Through daily practice, your dog may start to associate the once-troublesome noise with spending time with you, getting fun playtime in, or eating a delicious treat.

5. Distract Them

Typically, for humans, distractions from fears don’t challenge you enough to confront why you’re afraid of something. Your dog isn’t quite the same way. Since you don’t speak the same language, you can’t rationalize to them not to be afraid of something. In this case, distractions may come in handy to help them forget about their fears temporarily.

If you have a normally playful dog who fears certain noises, you may be able to distract them with their favorite toy or an enriching treat. Get your dog’s mind off the noise by showing them there’s nothing to be afraid of, and they can even do some of their favorite things while the noise is happening.

Say Goodbye to Noise Anxiety

All in all, noise anxiety for your pup might come down to a desensitization issue. Make sure to expose your dog to these noises and situations as early as you can after you get them. The younger they are when they start their desensitization training, the better. If your dog is older or the phobia is severe, just provide them a safe place to go to self-soothe. You may not completely conquer the noise anxiety, but you can make them feel comfortable enough to hopefully lower their stress in noisy environments or situations.

Next. Why fireworks scare some dogs and how to keep them safe on the Fourth of July. dark