Thunderstorms. Fireworks. Traffic. Construction. These are the top triggers for dogs with noise anxiety. Most dogs aren’t fans of loud, sudden noises, but for a large subset of dogs, these noises can trigger extended anxiety episodes and marked behavioral changes.
So, how can you calm an anxious dog? Here are some dog noise anxiety treatments to try:
If your dog starts to display noise anxiety symptoms, such as whining, pacing, drooling or hiding when it gets noisy outside, your first line of defense should be modifying the environment in the following ways:
- Close the windows. If you have good windows, this will block a surprising amount of external noise. If your windows aren’t as good, get some insulated curtains for an extra layer of sound baffling.
- Turn on some background music. The steady hum of a fan or air conditioner can be a soothing way to mask loud noises. You can also try calming soundtracks, DogTV or multi-hour YouTube videos.
- Create a cozy den. If your dog is crate trained, put a heavy bedspread or a quilt over the crate so he has a place to tuck himself away when it gets noisy. The fabric will also help to muffle some of the sounds. If you have a comfortable, windowless internal room, move your dog and his crate, bed, toys and water there during the day. Be sure to dog proof the temporary accommodations!
- Consider doggy daycare. If your dog is okay being around other dogs, daycare can be a great solution. Many daycares are in large, well-insulated buildings, and the presence of other dogs is a great distraction no matter what is going on outside. If you don’t have a dog-friendly dog, however, this could make the anxiety worse, so be honest about your pup’s preferences.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for a dog with noise anxiety is to provide comfort and safety during a noise event. Some dogs will want to sit on your lap, while others will want to burrow behind you on the sofa or curl up next to you in bed. Let them! Here are some other ways to physically comfort a dog with noise anxiety:
- A ThunderShirt. ThunderShirts can be helpful for anxious dogs. Keep in mind that the ThunderShirt or wrap can make your dog very warm, so you’ll have to monitor his body temperature and provide plenty of water while he has it on.
- Try TTouch. In addition to a wrapping technique that mimics the effects of a ThunderShirt, TTouch therapy can provide comfort and distraction with its deliberate, gentle contact. Practice the techniques with your dog before a noise event, when you can make the interaction fun and pleasant. You don’t want to spring it on your dog for the first time with thunder crashing overhead.
- Canine massage. Like TTouch, canine massage can be a great way to provide comfort when things get scary outside. You don’t have to be a professional to be effective; a gentle, soothing touch can go a long way. Don’t press too hard and be aware of sensitive areas. Again, work on normalizing the contact when it isn’t noisy outside and be sure to use treats and praise to make the experience positive so that your dog has good associations with massage when fireworks season rolls around.
Supplements and Medication
If environmental or behavioral modifications don’t help ease your dog’s noise anxiety, you may want to add supplements or dog anxiety medication to your toolkit. Once you’ve noticed your dog’s noise anxiety symptoms, make an appointment with your vet to discuss the various dog noise anxiety medications:
- Calming supplements. More and more pet parents are having success with hemp-based, CBD or other calming supplements. You’ll probably have to try several before finding the formulation and dosage that works best for your dog. Always follow the recommended dosage on the package, and track the effects closely so that you can adjust the dosage as appropriate.
- Prescription medication. Depending on the progress and severity of your dog’s noise anxiety, your vet may recommend over-the-counter solutions (like carefully calibrated doses of Benadryl, which can have a mildly sedative effect) or prescription anti-anxiety medication. Prescription dog anxiety medication isn’t necessarily a lifetime commitment, and it can help break the stress cycle so that your dog isn’t forced to develop self-soothing strategies like chewing, barking or destructive behavior.
As always, consult with your veterinarian if you observe changes in your dog’s behavior. A sudden, worsening response to noise events could have a physical cause, and a successful treatment plan, whether it be behavior modification, medication or a combination of protocols, will rely on an accurate diagnosis of the underlying problem.
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