Although there is not much we can do about certain sudden loud noises, like lightning during a thunderstorm, there are ways to prepare our dogs from an early age to cope in these situations. Unfortunately, some dogs will always struggle with loud noises, but you can make it easier for them, to a certain degree. Here are a few things that you can do…
1. During a puppy’s critical socialisation period, he should be exposed to a multitude of different noises at a low level – sounds that we may not even notice anymore, because we’re used to them. The sound may initially elicit a startled response. As long as nothing bad happens, puppies with good coping skills will bounce back and recover from the ‘surprise noise’ within seconds. Repeated exposure to the noise will desensitise the pup – in other words, the noise eventually becomes ‘white noise’, as he learns to filter the sound out as being ‘unimportant’. Unless the experience is the sound of a predictor of good things (like a cookie jar) or bad things (like an employee with a noisy leaf blower – now both the employee and the leaf blower are scary).
2. Some puppies are oversensitive to new noises. This could be due to genetics, personality and early experiences, or lack thereof.
3. If you see early signs of sound sensitivity, have your vet examine your dog to rule out any possible medical reasons. Some medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal problems or cognitive dysfunction, have been associated with noise aversion.
4. Overly sound-sensitive puppies would require a lot of desensitisation exercises.
5. Expose puppies to noises initially at a very low level, according to your individual puppy’s response. Each puppy is different. Be pro-active, not reactive. Sound-sensitive dogs usually get worse, not better.
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