My Dog is Scared of Loud Noises – What Can I do?
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Questions submitted by A. V.
I adopted a dog who was not housebroken. We have tried everything the vet and various trainers and books have suggested, including keeping him on a leash and never letting him go anywhere but where he can wander on a six-foot leash. At first he got better, but now he is much worse after a summer of fireworks, thunder, and now hunting season. He is terrified of loud noises which is mostly why he won’t go out, I think. I’ve bought the CDs to relax dogs, and they do relax him but they don’t cure him to the point where he will go outside at the times people hunt or set off fireworks, or if it is cloudy because he’s anticipating loud noises. He gets aggressive if we try to force him outside. He is a delightful dog other than this serious drawback
Somehow you need to get your pup to associate going outside with good things. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but here are a few things you can try. Invest in a Thundershirt. I have had great success with anxious and frightened dogs while using it. The theory of them is that they wrap your dog like you would swaddle a crying baby – they do feel comforted. If you can’t get one right away, try a tight fitting child’s shirt (you don’t say what size your dog is, so just make sure it fits snugly). Then find an extra yummy treat –really yummy–and something that he doesn’t normally get (boiled chicken, string cheese, or liver). At first just take the treat and sit just outside the door with the treat in your hand and let him come to you, then feed by hand calmly. After a little while, go a little further out from the door and again, let him come to you – this way it’s his idea. Outside should be the only place he gets this yummy treat so he begins to relate the two. Time and patience will win out with this. If he goes potty while he is out with you, jackpot! Also, because he may be picking up on your frustration, remember to stay calm yourself. If he knows any obedience drills (sit, down, etc) or any tricks, do those outside too – it will bolster his confidence.