Progressive & Thought Provoking Discussions about Wild & Domestic Animal Behavior, Animal Careers, Animal Training, & More!

Pet Training & Behavior Topics

All content © by Diana L. Guerrero unless otherwise noted and may not be reprinted without prior written permission. All rights reserved. Click here for reprint permissions and fees.

Welcome to Diana Guerrero's Ark Animals Training & Therapy. This section is dedicated to pets, companion animals, and topics related to their care and training. This article discusses the pet problem of noise phobia or noise aversion. You should always seek professional help for pet problems.

Pet Behavior Problems: Noise Phobia or Noise Aversion

Phobias are an illusive problem for many pet owners. Noise phobia can be experienced weekly when trash trucks collect the garbage, during the New Year celebration, around the Fourth of July fireworks, in response to gunshots, loud engines or emergency sirens and more frequently in response to thunderstorms.

A phobia is best explained as behavior out of proportion to the real situation. Phobias become worse with repeated exposures especially when owners decide to try and "comfort" their animal during the behavior. This actually reinforces the fear response and escalates it. I call this "training by accident."

A dog's response can range from low level fear behavior such as trembling, "clinging" to the owner to destructive responses such as self-mutilation, (injury to paws or teeth) damage to doors, windows or other barriers in an attempt to escape.

Mild noise phobia may be exhibited by your pet in a variety of ways: appearing anxious during thunderstorms, trembling, hiding under the bed or in a corner or small confined space, the dog may be afraid to go out of doors, try to escape outdoors. This behavior may occur before, during and after the storm has passed.

One of the approaches you may try for an animal with minor reactions is train him to go to a certain "safe" area. This can be crate or a small enclosed room like the bathroom or basement. Avoid comforting an animal and instead reward calm behavior.

Severely affected animals may soil in the house, destroy furniture, doors, or windows. They might attempt to dig through walls or jump through windows and may animals end up hurting themselves in frantic efforts to flee.

Some dogs can be taught not to fear thunder and other loud noises through behavior modification. Other animals may benefit from more intense anxiety reducing efforts (natural or pharmacological). Desensitization and counter-conditioning are the behavior modification efforts most successfully used with pets with this phobia.

Desensitization is where low levels of controlled exposure to the phobic producing effect are presented below the fear producing levels. Gradually the intensity is increased. There was a CD called "Fear Faders" available that assisted in techniques to desensitize, but you need to work with a local behaviorist on this sensitive problem..

Counter conditioning is where the animal is trained to perform and incompatible behavior with the undesirable response. Care should be used when using this method since you could accidentally train the wrong behavior and reinforce the fear.

There are a variety of anxiety reducing products. Non-drug products that have been used successfully include flower essences, melatonin, and "Calm Pet." Drug therapy is another tool that can be used when all else fails.

Although I am not very pro-drugs I have used it in extreme cases. You will have to work with your veterinarian to obtain these. In more extreme cases, alternative therapy or drug therapy helps take the edge off so that the behavior modification techniques can take hold.

If you are experiencing this behavior problem help is just a phone call away! Hire Animal Expert

About the columnist: Since 1978 Diana L. Guerrero has worked professionally with both wild and domestic animals. Guerrero has been affiliated with, and certified by, a variety of animal programs in the USA and Europe. Based in California, she writes, consults, and speaks. Information on her animal career programs, training courses, and her books {What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality (SkyLight Paths, 2003), Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), Help! My Pet is Driving Me Crazy (Guerrero Ink, 2007), Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals (Guerrero Ink, 2007)} can be found in this web site and in the shop. Questions for Guerrero should be submitted via the blog comments or membership forum.


Subscribe to Blog

Click Here for RSS Feed


Guerrero Ink: Freelance Animal Writer

Join Email List