Desensitizing your dog to loud sounds

Begin your behaviour modification program by finding a recording (or combination of recording and other stimuli) that causes your dog to react fearfully. Thunderstorm recordings on tape or CD are available at most music outlets. As soon as the dog begins to show fear of the stimuli, turn them off. You don’t want to evoke a full fear response; you just want to find the level at which your dog begins to respond.

Once the dog is totally relaxed again you can begin the training program. Start by playing the recording below the level that would evoke a fearful response. This may be at a level that you cannot even hear. Remember that your dog’s hearing is infinitely better than yours. After five minutes or so, increase the sound slightly. (This is the desensitization part.) While your dog is still calm, feed him absolutely wonderful treats – roast beef or steak, fried chicken skins, or anything else that your dog would normally do backflips for. (This is the counter-conditioning part.) You want him to think that absolutely wonderful things happen when thunderstorm noises occur.

Be generous with totally terrific treats, petting, and praise, and keep the sound at each level for several minutes before gradually increasing the volume again. At some point, your dog will start to exhibit a mild, fearful reaction. (If it is not mild, you have increased the volume too quickly.) Watch for panting, pacing, clinging to you, and other signs of tension. When this happens you have two choices. You can either immediately turn the volume back down, or wait and see if the dog habituates to that level of intensity. If the reaction is truly mild and you have been very gradually increasing the volume, it is preferable to wait for habituation.

Keep the volume at this level for a considerable period of time before increasing the volume again (the exact definition of “considerable period of time” depends on the individual dog). As soon as the dog relaxes – when the signs of stress go away – resume treat-feeding and petting.

Here are some great links to do this at home. If you need more help, contact Kulula Canine Academy for more informations.

Dog Sounds

Car Sounds

Knocking Door