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6 Sounds That Scare Dogs & How to Help Them

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Dogster Team

puppy dog scared hiding

6 Sounds That Scare Dogs & How to Help Them

Canine noise aversion is a serious medical condition affecting over a third of the dogs in the United States. Pups with this condition experience extreme fear and anxiety triggered by specific noises. It is debilitating and not unlike panic disorder in humans.

If your dog suffers from noise aversion, you know how heartbreaking it is to see them suffer. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help your pup cope and improve their quality of life. Read on to learn about the sounds that could be spooking your dog and what you need to do to help them when they become afraid.

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The 6 Sounds That Commonly Scare Dogs

1. Thunderstorms

Thunder is perhaps the most commonly known sound that scares dogs. It’s not just the loud booms that are terrifying, though. Thunderstorms bring changes in the air, like drops in barometric pressure, which can significantly affect your pup’s behavior. Storms are also accompanied by changes in smells (like rain) and sights (like dark clouds and lightning), all of which can induce fear in your pet once they’ve associated these changes with the loud booms of thunder.

dog affraid of thunderstorm
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

2. Fireworks

Fireworks are another extremely common noise phobia for dogs. They’re extremely loud and unpredictable, not to mention bright. And if there is a major holiday, like the 4th of July or New Year’s Day, the fireworks could go on for a while.

3. Gun Shots

If you’ve ever heard a gunshot, you know how loud they are and how much they can hurt your ears. Now, imagine hearing that same sound with your dog’s extremely heightened sense of hearing.

Gun being fired
Image Credit: Felipe Jimenez, Shutterstock

4. Construction Noises

If you or your neighbor are doing a home renovation, the sound of construction can be extremely disruptive to your dog. Power tools and heavy machinery aren’t particularly known for their silence, and having to listen to them for extended periods can be very stress-inducing.

5. Alarms and Sirens

Alarms and sirens are other sudden, unexpected, and loud sounds that can be very distressing for dogs. Whether it’s your car alarm, ambulance siren, or smoke detector beeping to tell you it’s time to change its batteries, these sounds can wreak havoc on your pup.

Image Credit: poco_bw, Getty Images

6. Appliances and Equipment

A vacuum cleaner can set off a noise-phobic dog just as easily as a lawnmower or leaf blower. A particularly loud air conditioner, snowplow, or garbage truck can have the same effect.

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Why Are Some Dogs So Scared?

While we cannot say for certain why your dog is scared of particular sounds, there are many different causes and contributing factors. These include:

  • Inherited sensitivity to noise
  • Early experiences
  • Improper socialization
  • Traumatic events associated with the specific noise
  • Punishment
  • Vulnerability due to underlying health issues

Signs Noise-Phobic Dogs May Exhibit

Dogs that are afraid of noises will exhibit their fear in many different ways. Some of the most common signs to watch for include:

  • Inappropriate urination or defecation
  • Chewing
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Lip licking
  • Pacing
  • Trembling
  • Unusual vocalization (e.g., barking or whining)
  • Hypervigilance
  • Owner-seeking behavior
  • Refusal to eat

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How to Help a Dog With Noise Phobias

two dogs afraid of fireworks
Image Credit: smrm1977, Shutterstock

In an ideal world, you’d prevent exposure to the noise triggering your pet. Unfortunately, this is not practical in most situations, but there are things you can do to your environment to make it more comfortable and the sound less scary.

1. Don’t Wait to Address the Problem

It’s important to recognize noise aversions early on so you can address them as soon as possible. The fear your pet has over a sound will intensify the more they hear it. Many pet owners don’t realize that noise phobias are a very real medical issue, so they don’t think to bring it up with their veterinarians. It’s essential to acknowledge that this is not normal and that, in many cases, it cannot be managed by holding and comforting your pet. When owners choose not to be proactive, they often miss the boat in helping address the problem and making their dogs more comfortable and less afraid.

2. Create a Safe Space

Another environmental management technique involves setting up a safe space for your dog to hide when they’re triggered during an episode. It can be one of any number of places, including their crate, a bathroom, closet, or other interior room without windows.

3. Play Calming Music

Studies show that exposure to certain types of music can help calm anxious and stressed dogs. One found that kenneled dogs’ heart rate variability (HRV) was higher when they were listening to soft rock or reggae music. Another found that classical music can make kenneled dogs sleep more and bark less.

You can find a lot of calming music for dogs on YouTube, so we recommend trying different playlists to see which calms your dog most.

dog owner listening to music
Image Credit: paulaphoto, Shutterstock

4. Invest In Anti-Anxiety Clothing

Anti-anxiety vests, like Thundershirts, work great for some dogs. The effect is similar to swaddling an infant or using a weighted blanket as an adult. Studies suggest that, when worn as per the manufacturer’s instructions, the constant pressure could reduce stress behaviors and help maintain an appropriate heart rate.

If your budget doesn’t have space for anti-anxiety clothes, towel wrapping may be an affordable solution to try.

5. Don’t Over Coddle

As hard as it may be to overcoddle your dog when they’re afraid, it should be avoided. Giving them attention at the moment may calm them, but it doesn’t teach them to be unafraid of the stimuli. Instead, it actually conditioners their attention-seeking behavior as a coping strategy, which may ultimately lead to codependency. This can be problematic if your pup is exposed to fear-inducing stimuli when you’re not home.

6. Talk to Your Vet

Depending on the type of noise aversion your dog has, you may need to consider other treatment options.

Certain medications can help calm your pup and keep them below the threshold so that when they hear the distressing noises, they won’t go berserk. Medication for such conditions is either short-acting (given when exposure to the stimuli is expected, such as during the 4th of July when you’d expect a fireworks show) or long-acting (given daily to help decrease overall anxiety).

Your vet may also recommend systematic desensitization via commercially available soundtracks or apps. This treatment method will reproduce the sound effects and allow you to counter-condition them.

veterinarian using otoscope to check a beagle dog's ear
Image Credit: Beach Creatives, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Noise aversions are true phobias that can be triggered by several different stimuli. They can be extremely distressing for the pup suffering from them, so the goal of treatment is always to decrease symptoms and improve the dog’s quality of life. Owners of dogs with such aversions can adjust their environment and may also consider behavioral modification therapies or medications. If your dog is suffering from this condition, please reach out to your veterinarian for advice and recommendations.

Featured Image Credit: evgengerasimovich, Shutterstock

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