I have a dog afraid of loud noises because unruly kids on bikes tossed firecrackers tossed at him when he was a few years old. Even the calmest of dogs may get scared and anxious now and then.
Dogs may be frightened by fireworks, thunderstorms, car rides, routine disruptions, and any number of things. For one reason or another, dogs can develop sound-related anxiety.
Fortunately, there are many products to help a dog who is fearful of loud sounds. This article focuses on more natural products that are available without a veterinary prescription.
Some dogs, like some people, require more than a supplement or CBD oil to stay calm during stress-inducing situations. I use both prescriptive and non-prescriptive products for my dog during stressful situations caused by loud sounds.
Always talk to your dog’s veterinarian, but understand that many traditional veterinarians do not have experience with holistic or non-traditional supplements. I work in tandem with my dog’s vet for traditional prescriptions and I talk to trusted holistic vets when it comes to natural calming products.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Why Is My Dog Afraid Of Loud Noises?
Even the most laid-back and easygoing dogs can become afraid of a loud noise. A friend of mine rescued a dog from a local shelter, and she would sleep through thunderstorms and fireworks. My third Cocker, Alvin, couldn’t care less about loud sounds or fireworks.
My second Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, would heavily pant, shake, and cower in fear at the same sound triggers. Like people, each dog is different.
Although fireworks and thunderstorms are the more common sounds to frighten dogs, they can be fearful of other sounds as well. Sometimes it is situational, and something may have happened to a dog that makes them frightened or apprehensive of certain sounds.
Fear, anxiety, and phobia are three completely different concepts. Fears are natural tendencies and can even help keep a dog safe in a dangerous situation.
Anxiety happens when a dog is consistently fearful of something that isn’t present. Separation anxiety is a good example where the dog gets upset when not with her mom or dad.
Phobias are extreme and persist in the face of a stimulus such as loud sounds from thunder, fireworks, gunshots, a bulldozer, etc.
Some reasons dogs are afraid of loud noises include:
- A traumatic incident associated with a sound: Maybe a horn honking is the last thing a dog heard when he was dropped at the shelter. Horns can become his worst enemy.
- The sound bothers their eardrums and causes them distress: such as airplanes flying overhead, fire alarms, ambulances and sirens, and car traffic.
- Arguing and family squabbles or domestic situations involving yelling: Dogs can sense emotion, even if they are deaf.
- They are taken off guard or are sleeping and a horrible sound wakes them up. This can be anything from gunshots to a loud television, backfire from a car or loud music.
- Unknown origin: Some dogs are simply scared of loud sounds for no apparent reason.
Dogs have a very keen sense of hearing and their ears are far more sensitive to that of a human. Further, dogs can detect higher pitches than humans.
Dogs who are noise phobic or fearful of certain sounds display their distress in a variety of ways including:
- Aggression or agitation towards family or other pets
- Clinging to you
- Crying, whimpering, whining, or barking
- Cowering and shaking
- Destructiveness to his environment
- Ears laid back
- Fleeing or attempting to flee the scene (which is why many dogs go missing on fourth of July)
- Freezing in place
- Hiding behind or under things
- Lack of appetite
- Licking or smacking their lips
- Pacing constantly
- Pawing at you (my dog’s classic fear sign)
- Peeing or eliminating in the house
Can Behavior Modification Or Coddling My Dog Help?
Yes, there is a time and a place for trying to retrain your dog not to panic or freak out by a sound trigger. Classic examples include lightly playing thunderstorm sounds in the background while your dog is in the same room. By increasing the intensity each day, the idea is the dog will become accustomed to the sound and stop freaking it. This isn’t the case for my dog.
“There are presumably two components to the fear, he says: what the dog sees and what the dog hears,” according to Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic Director Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB. “What the dog sees is easy to tend to. Don’t take her to any fireworks celebrations. That way, if she might get thrown by huge starbursts appearing in the sky, she won’t have to contend with them.”
Dr. Dodman recommends pet parents play a recording of sounds that typically frighten the dog. He says by playing it louder and louder over a period of days to weeks while doing something the dog enjoys, she will learn the loud sound means good things.
For example, if your dog is frightened by fireworks, play the firework sounds on low volume and play your dog’s favorite game or activity with her. If your dog is older or immobile, do something she loves or feed her a favorite treat during the sounds. The goal is to condition your dog that something good is happening in conjunction with the loud noise.
Most experts say coddling or cuddling a dog when she shakes or cowers from loud sounds will reinforce the fearful behavior. See how your dog reacts. My dog actually gets a bit calmer when I pet him during the early phase of his distress from thunderstorms or fireworks.
Products For Dogs Afraid Of Loud Noises: What To Look For
Calming products, like dogs, are different and each has its own pros and cons. I always look for veterinary formulated products or those that are third-party tested.
The type of noise phobia a dog has can help you choose the right calming product. If your dog only gets scared when she hears sirens, you know what to eliminate or work on. If your dog gets scared of the sound of car keys jingling, perhaps you work on acclimating her to the car while giving her something natural to calm her nerves.
Determine what method your dog will best adapt to. Some calming products for noise-phobic dogs are added to their food. Other products are in the form of a chewy treat, an oil with dropper, or a pill.
The following list is presented from experience, calming products we have used with success, veterinary recommendations, and an abundant supply of positive reviews from various sources. While we make no guarantees that these products will work for your dog, we only share products we use and with which we have direct experience.
Best Products For a Dog Fearful Of Loud Sounds
Thundershirt Sport Dog Anxiety Jacket
The easiest product by far on this list because the dog wears it is an anxiety wrap. Anxiety wraps must be tried when the dog is calm she knows they are safe. My dog acclimated to his wrap like a champ because he is accustomed to wearing doggy clothes.
If you put the Thundershirt on a dog when the noise is happening, she will associate the wrap with the sound. You need to get your dog used to wearing the Thundershirt in calm times. It is not designed to keep on all the time.
The Thundershirt is designed to give your dog a “hug” and calm her sympathetic nervous system. It is like a pressure wrap targeting specific trigger points on a dog in the same way swaddling a baby gives them comfort.
We had mixed success with the Thundershirt, but found it worked better for thunderstorms when I paired it with a canine pheromone spray, which I discuss below.
If you invest in a Thundershirt or any anxiety wrap, it’s important to properly measure your dog and purchase the correct size. You never want it to be too big (it won’t work) or too tight (it can harm the dog).
Pet Releaf Stress Releaf CBD Oil for Dogs
Pet Releaf is my favorite CBD oil for dogs because it makes it easier for your dog’s body to calm down and promotes relaxation. It contains no THC or anything that can make your dog “high.”
It is best to use CBD Oil from Pet Releaf on your dog at least two weeks in advance of a stressful situation so the product can build up in your dog’s system.
Dr. Judy Morgan is a renowned holistic veterinarian and something she shared about CBD for dogs has remained with me. Dr. Morgan says, “If you don’t see an effect for your particular pet, you either need to change the brand or you need to change the dosing. And we don’t have good studies on what the dose should be. The good news is it’s a safe product overall.
Pet parents can feel good giving their dogs Pet Releaf products because they are human-grade, and grown and harvested at the largest Certified USDA organic hemp farm in the United States. The hemp farm is in Colorado. They contain no herbicides or pesticides.
You can then titrate (increase) the dosage as needed and use Pet Releaf CBD treats as well. The CBD oil and treats travel well and are easy to dispense. Always check with your veterinarian first.
Here’s how to choose the right CBD and dosage for your dogs.
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Adaptil Calming Dog Spray
When my dog first started seeing his veterinarian, I was pleasantly surprised to see her gift him with a surprise upon arrival. The vet nurse placed a cute bandanna around my dog’s neck which was infused with Adaptil calming dog spray.
Adaptil is designed to release specific pheromones to calm and appease dogs, so it’s sort of like a calming message through the dog’s nose. I noticed my dog was less apprehensive at the vet, and each time he visits he gets a calming spray infused bandanna.
I wondered if perhaps spraying the Adaptil onto the Thundershirt or anti wrap for Dexter would help, so I gave it a shot. I can honestly say for mild storms or the occasional display of fireworks. this works in tandem to help ease Dexter’s noise phobia.
Never spray it directly on your dog, but do try it with a bandanna, on a dog bed, an anxiety wrap, or your dog’s favorite blanket where she rests.
Vetoquinol Zylkene Behavior Support Capsules
Touted as a “veterinary supplement formulated with alpha-casozepine, a natural ingredient from cow’s milk with calming properties to help relax cats and dogs,” this product may help a stressed dog during fireworks, thunderstorms, veterinary visits, and more.
I have not tried this product, but reviews across the board from pet parents indicate about a 50/50 success rate. You should always talk to your veterinarian before starting any supplement, even if it is touted as ‘natural’ and has the NASC seal of approval, which this product does.
It is easy to administer, touted as not causing drowsiness, and Vetoquinol, the manufacturer, indicates it is safe for long-term use.
Some reviews indicate dogs with allergies to beef or dairy had side effects. If you have a dog afraid of loud noises, many pet parents swear by the success of Zylkene. It is available on Amazon and Chewy.
Other Medications For Noise Phobic Dogs
Some dogs need a bit more than a natural supplement can provide. Every now and then, my dog needs help with a prescription medication from the vet.
During all-day thunderstorms or days-long fireworks, we rely on Xanax. It makes my male Cocker Spaniel calm but not drowsy. He sort of acts like nothing is happening outside whereas he’d be shaking like a bag of popcorn in the microwave.
In addition to Xanax, other medications that are sometimes prescribed for dogs who are afraid of loud sounds include:
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Sileo (dexmedetomidine)
- Trazodone (Desyrel, Oleptro)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
Never use a medication not specifically prescribed for your dog. Many dog parents choose to treat their dogs with natural products to avoid prescription medications. Never overdose or use too much of anything on your dog. Make sure to ask your dog’s vet about adding anything new to your dog’s regimen.
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