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I have a 4-year old dog who, at times, is very fearful. We can deal with her fearfulness, but the problem we can't seem to resolve is her sensitivity to noise. If someone slams a car door outside and turns the alarm on, she will start to growl. If she hears kids playing outside, she will start to bark. Finally, if someone rings the bell, she will bark at will until finally I must stand in front of her, blocking her view from anything, and tell her to stop. I like that she barks on the initial door ring or door opening, but long after the event is over, she is still barking; let's say, 5 minutes.

Any tips to help desensitize my dog to noise?

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  • Quite often it is initially the owner reacting to noises and the dog merely catches up after that. Your dog mirrors your reactions to slamming car doors and sounds of kids. Later your attempts to suppress your reactions don't matter anymore, the dog has learned already to growl and bark at these sounds. Jan 28 '14 at 21:16
  • @paulasto I actually don't react to them. The door bell and door opening Ok obviously I have to but not for slamming car doors.
    – user294101
    Jan 28 '14 at 21:18
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    you may not notice yourself reacting to them, it can be as simple as tensing up for an instant that may make a dog nervous about a sound Jan 29 '14 at 9:21
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Hoo boy, that's a fair-sized chapter in my copy of the Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Cats and Dogs... Having said that, there are both medicinal and non-medicinal options to trying to treat noise-based anxiety in dogs. Since I'm not a vet, I'm going to totally avoid medicinal options and mention some behavioral ones. Having said that, it would be wise to consult a behavioral specialist regardless.

At any rate, a couple of don'ts:

  1. Don't tell them that it's "okay" (or whatever words you use to give permission) as that sends the message that the behavior is permitted.

  2. Don't pet them to soothe. This could actually have the opposite effect, by basically telling them that it's a good response by rewarding the response.

Some possible do's:

  1. Stay by the dog, but quietly, not rewarding. Your presence can comfort without rewarding.

  2. Apply gentle pressure on the dog with your arm or body, almost like a hug. Basically, you're trying to relax the dog.

  3. Give them access to their crate, if they find it a comforting space.

  4. Dark rooms or environments can provide a calming space if you can make that available.

If the above are not working for you, then a specialist is your best bet. There are people quite skilled in this area that can help, especially given the ease at which your dog's anxieties can be triggered.

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