Friday, January 2, 2015

Noise Phobias in Dogs

Hey everyone! I hope you're all having a great day and Happy Friday!! :D

On New Year's Eve, I wrote a little bit about Zoe's noise phobia and how I was worried about the Fireworks. Today I wanted to update everyone on how everything went and tell you more about her problem and her history.

I got Zoe on August 17th 2011 and I honestly had no idea she had any problems. If you click on her page there's the whole story of her adoption.

I first realized there was something wrong when I decided to start clicker training her. I clicked the clicker and she ran from me and hid in the bedroom. I thought it was weird, so I went and got her and tried again. Same thing. She ran into the bedroom and this time she started shaking. I figured her ears were just really sensitive and scrapped the clicker and decided to just use a marker word.

We had signed up for a dog training class at Petsmart. At the time I worked there and it was free so I thought, Why not? I talked to the trainers there and wanted to make sure that I was not going to be enrolled in a clicker class. They assured me I was not. When we got to class, the instructor immediately handed clickers out to everyone and they all started clicking away. The clicks echoed off the sides of the building and my new dog crawled underneath my stool and completely shut down. It was actually really sad to watch and I was pretty pissed. I only went to one other class and ended up dropping out.

I met an agility instructor at the dog park and after talking it over with her, I did set out to get Zoe used to the clicker but gradually. We saved pieces of our dinner for her every night and we'd click the clicker once and give her a very high value treat and call it a night. We did this for weeks until we could click the clicker a few times before ending the session and I also purchased some clickers that weren't as loud. It took 6 months to properly desensitize her to the clicker to the point I could actually start using it as a marker. 

Fast forward to a year after adopting her, it wasn't quite the fourth of July yet, we were at the dog park and she had been playing with her friend. All of a sudden she had a panic attack and was hiding under the bench, shivering and drooling. Her eyes had completely glazed over. I had been watching her the whole time, so I knew she hadn't gotten into anything. I thought she might be stressed out because the previous day we had been at Doggie Dash and we had a really busy week. I'm assuming now she had heard a bang. I took her home from the dog park and a little while later she was okay again. At this point I worked at the vet clinic so if I had been really concerned I could of taken her to work and had her looked at but her gums were a normal color, her temperature was normal and she seemed fine other than the shivering and acting freaked out.

Then Fourth of July happened. It was really bad. Our neighbors were pretty much lighting fireworks off right outside our window. She would pace, drool, shiver and her eyes looked glazed over and nothing we did helped. She wouldn't eat, wouldn't drink and wouldn't stop pacing or shivering. It continued well into the night, even after the bangs stopped. It was absolutely awful to watch her go through it, with no way of telling her it would be okay. For the next two weeks or so our neighbors randomly lit off fireworks. It was miserable.

Since then, any time she hears any sort of bang, if it has a bass to it, she will panic. Including fireworks on the tv. Even our stereo freaked her out to the point where we just got rid of it. We've tried desensitizing cds with behavior mod, thundershirts, drugs, herbel remedies, calming collars. You name it, I've probably tried it. I have not found anything to be particularly helpful, except the one time when we were at the dog park. Zoe had heard a bang and one of the other regulars had a jack russell who was very tenacious. He noticed Zoe under the bench looking upset and he went up to her and immediately started pestering her. Once he got her playing she was okay again. Sometimes Phoenix is able to help her calm down, too but it usually takes a long time. Phoenix is not as tenacious as my friends dog was and she won't continue to pester Zoe if Zoe isn't in the mood to play.

So last night, we started preparing early for fireworks. I took them out to go potty early, gave her a sedative, put her thundershirt on (I haven't found that it really helps her but I still put it on) and then we turned on several fans and turned the tv up as loud as we could stand it. Around midnight, I heard all of 2 bangs but they were pretty far off in the distance! Zoe did notice them and she went to her "safe spot" in the bedroom but she didn't have a full blown melt down like I had seen in the past. I was so relieved! I hate watching her panic with no way to help her feel better.

I'm under no allusion that the 4th of July will go as smoothly but at least I have around 6 months to worry about it.

I hope everyone else's New Year went okay!! Does you dog panic at fireworks, too? Or are they okay?


  1. aww poor thing. fireworks sort of freak my dogs out, but nothing really bad. It would be so hard to see your dog that scared! I can imagine!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  2. Hailey has issues with fireworks, gun shots (we live in the country), thunder and strong wind. She actually ripped a huge whole in the wall once while we were out. We tried meds for it but it made her worse. We find the thunder shirt keeps her calm enough to go to her safe spot in a closet. We also use calm cookies. As she has gotten older it has decreased. Hope Zoe can overcome this too.

  3. Poor, poor Zoe ...... that must be soooooooo scary for her. I'm afraid of nothing. Dad loves storms. We sit outside and watch them together when we have one at our house. Mum and Dad had a border collie many years ago and he was terrified of storms. He would escape from the house and run away. They always found him but, like Zoe, it traumatised him for days after. I don't think there's much you can do. Mum tried EVERYTHING but nothing worked.

  4. Poor Zoe, and poor you! I'm so glad none of mine have noise issues. Even Mr. Sensitive Pike is okay with noise.

  5. Zoe really is terrified of noises. Sam used to do well, then became terrified of thunderstorms. He spent New Year's Eve beside Jan's chair trying to be calm.

  6. It sounds like Zoe is making some progress with loud noises. Haley was conditioned as a puppy to loud noises, as my youngest son was living at home and very much into light design and sound mixing at the time. I hope Zoe continues to make progress by the Fourth. :)

  7. I'm glad that last night was better than expected. I am wondering if there is any version of BAT (behavioral adjustment therapy, developed by Grisha Stewart) that can be used for noise sensitivity. The website is:

    BAT has helped Shyla immensely in coping with her fears. However, I don't know if there's any way to use it for noise fear. That is one fear that Shyla doesn't have... thank goodness.

    Poor sweet Zoe (and you).

  8. wow, poor Zoe! She really has an extreme fear. I admire you taking 6 months to get her over clicker fear, that's great. My Husky is really scared of fireworks. The second she hears it in the distance, she wiggles into her safe spot in a bedroom. We just keep the tv loud & try to mask it.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Cathy, Isis & Phoebe

  9. Oh, poor sweetie. It's so awful to watch a dog having a panic attack and not being able to do anything to help. Our beagle was terrified of driving over cattle guards - and there used to be 8 of them on the final climb to my mom's old house. Oh, it was awful to drive there with her! Rita hates the sound of driving over them too, but at least my mom moved, so we don't have to drive over them all the time now!

    Luckily Rita doesn't mind fireworks. She's quite used to them since we live w/in hearing distance of SeaWorld's nightly summer fireworks show. Hope you can get her a little more desensitized by July 4th!

  10. The golden we had before the Chessies sounds very much like Zoe. He hated thunderstorms and fireworks. He was also gun shy. He was an extremely birdie dog but ran away from the gunshot. To her credit, his breeder was honest that he would not make a hunting dog (we got him when he was 14 months old). We tired the desensitizing cd's too and they did not work.

    Although the Chessies are hunting dogs, they still do not like fireworks. Well Storm doesn't care. She could sleep through a bomb. I have been told it is because their ears are so much more sensitive than ours. We did use Canine Calm Spray over the 4th and it really helped. I have no idea why that stuff works. Lucky for us, New Year's Eve was not bad at all and the dogs barely seemed to notice.

  11. Oh, poor Zoe! Max absolutely hates fireworks. He paces & shivers & looks panicked. We give him calming meds and then try to bundle him up in his favorite blankie and my husband holds him tight. I'm not strong enough to hold him still. I want to try one of those thundershirts. Sorry it doesn't seem to help Zoe, though! My old dog was terrified of loud noises. A truck would drive by and he'd freak! I never knew what had caused his trauma either. ~Rascal and Rocco


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