How to Desensitize Your Dog to Loud City Noises

how to desensitize your dog to city noises

Do you have a new dog and live in the city? Or perhaps you adopted a dog that has never lived in an urban environment before? Let’s talk about how to desensitize your dog to loud cite noises.

Unfortunately, there can be some unexpected consequences of city life for your dog – namely a reaction to loud or “scary” noises. Fear of noises in dogs manifests in anxiety and leads to destruction, self-harm, escaping, shaking, whining, excessive drooling and more. Here’s what you need to know to help your pup:

Loud Noises Trigger Anxiety

Even people who first move to the city encounter a time of adjustment.  Chicago is wonderfully colorful, busy, and loud. We can drown out some of the noise with headphones and earbuds, but our furry friends aren’t so lucky.  For those dogs with exceptional hearing that are prone to anxiety, behaviors can change for the worse.  New puppies and grown dogs who grew up in the burbs may need an adjustment period.

According to the American Kennel Club, “Thunder, fireworks, and loud vehicles are probably the most common noise phobia triggers.  Dogs’ sensitivity to changes in barometric pressure can trigger fearful reactions to thunder long before humans even hear it.”

Dog Noise Phobia Treatment: Getting Your Dog Used to Scary Sounds

First, you can help get your dog used to noises by slowly exposing them to low-level noises. Play videos of your dog’s triggers, such as fireworks or thunder, on your phone quietly. Then, slowly increase the noise to the point that your dog isn’t exhibiting fearful behaviors but tolerating the noise.

Do this over many sessions. This may take months to achieve. If at any moment the dog acts fearful, stop the recording. Then, the following session, start playing the recording again on a lower volume.

According to the Pet Health Network, “Keep going until the sound is booming through your home and your dog (or cat!) could care less. This can work with doorbells, thunder, truck engines, clippers, crying babies, or any sound that triggers any reaction in your dog.”

What You Shouldn’t Do When Your Dog is Afraid of Loud Noises

First, reassuring your anxious dog through pets, cuddles, and treats may reinforce the fearful behavior. You should behave normally to show your dog has nothing to fear in that situation.

Second, don’t punish your dog for being fearful. That will only make them more fearful. Allow them to hide or do what comes naturally to them. Note what triggered the sound so you know what to except next time.

Lastly, don’t force your dog to go near the loud noise. They may panic and become aggressive. Again, allow them to retreat to their safe space.

What You Should Do to Desensitize Your Dog to Loud City Noises

When a general fear becomes a phobia, there’s more work that needs to be done to mitigate unwanted behaviors. If you have a dog with a noise phobia or been around a dog with a noise phobia, you know how difficult it is to manage. Here are some ideas on how to calm your dog when they are afraid of loud noise or to simply desensitize them to city noises:

  • Pressure wraps may be used to calm a severely anxious dog. It is a garment the dog wears that applies steady pressure. This technology is used to calm humans with anxiety, as well. Several retailers sell dog pressure wraps.
  • Create a safe space for your dog. If you crate your dog, this is a perfect safe space to go to during a storm or other noisy event (like the Air and Water Show). If your dog prefers to hide under a bed or other cozy spot, let them do that. This is a safe place they’ve chosen for themselves. Just remember, if your dog likes to lay in their crate, leave the door open. If they try to escape with the door closed, they may hurt themselves.
  • Attempt to distract your dog. This works best during the early stages of fear. Play fetch, fill a Kong, or give them lots of treats for following commands. The longer you can keep their attention, the longer you can keep them from becoming uncomfortable.

Some basic training helps curb anxiety from noise fear, but sometimes even more drastic measures are taken for these cases. If the strategies you can do at home don’t work, the next step is to discuss your dog’s wellbeing with their vet. There may be medical interventions in the form of medications they can offer for relief.

How K9 University Can Help

As a Chicago-based dog training and boarding facility, we’ve seen all manner of noise-related behaviors. If you get to the point that you feel you need extra guidance and private training, the experts at K9U Chicago can help.

Don’t let your dog’s fear of loud noises curb your need to explore the city with your pooch. We’ll help you with desensitizing your dog to loud city noises and getting them feeling and acting less anxious in no time!