Written by Anna Hollisey
Is your dog scared of loud noises like thunderstorms and fireworks? It’s very common. In fact, dogs become alert to unusual activity so they’re ready to respond or protect. But for some dogs, loud noises can cause unnecessary and harmful stress. In this article we’ll look at some ways to help your dog learn to handle loud noises – so you can both sleep more peacefully.
The instinct to fear loud noises is perfectly logical. It’s a protective instinct: in the wild, dogs evolved to be alert to danger. After all, the dogs who ignored loud noises weren’t the dogs who survived (or bred) successfully.
When they hear an alarming noise, most dogs (…at least half, and probably more) have a physiological response. Adrenaline is released inside the body, which causes a spike in cortisol – the stress hormone. This produces a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, and a pause in digestion.
Dogs display this fear in several different ways:
Out walking, your dog can hear hundreds of different noises. Did you know that dogs can hear four times further than humans – up to around 80 feet away? They also have a greater range, so they hear a lot of high-pitched sound that isn’t detectable by the human ear. Their range of hearing means that sudden, loud noises (like a car engine backfiring) can be extremely startling. For a dog who’s already alert, aroused or stressed (perhaps by meeting another dog or just the excitement of being on a walk), a loud noise can trigger an additional increase in adrenaline.
Scientists are kind of transfixed by the canine response to thunderstorms. Why? Dogs seem able to sense changes in the atmosphere – and some can predict a thunderstorm. When the air becomes charged, many dogs know that they need to be grounded (which is why they head for the bathroom). If your dog seems afraid of thunderstorms, you can try using a thunder jacket (which combats static) or providing them with a safe space for sheltering. This fear may not be a sound aversion – it could be a biological response to the pending threat.
Your dog hears lots of loud sounds in everyday life – like shouting kids, a banging washing machine, or your favorite music – but they’re still startled by fireworks. Why? Fireworks sound like gunshots; they’re loud, they’re unexpected, and they’re nothing like your usual Tuesday night soundtrack. Dogs rely on routine, depending on the same walks, feeding times, and people every day. When it’s disrupted, even the calmest dog can become alarmed. Who can blame them?
But don’t worry. There are lots of ways to help dogs who are scared of loud noises. Here’s a round-up of our favorite ideas:
Find out what it means if your dog howls along to the music you’ve switched on! Learn about looking after your dog during fireworks season. If your dog seems to be regularly stressed, read about identifying, managing and treating dog anxiety.