How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Sound Sensitive?

Hear no Evil

As a musician with a discerning ear, I’m ultra sound sensitive. When I enter a restaurant, I make my decision to stay for a meal based as much on the sound environment as the menu and atmosphere. I’ve also been known to go into sensory overload in large crowds with loud music playing. 

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a canine music expert or a sound sensitive human, but I’m always amazed by the number of sound sensitive dogs I meet whose caring, loving people are not aware of their dog’s fear of noises. So, it didn’t surprise me when I read in Applied Animal Behaviour Science about the results of a study by Dr. Rachel Casey at the School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol.

Casey’s objective was to gain insight into how domestic dogs react to noises. Only a quarter of the people reported their dog as ‘fearful’ of noises, yet nearly half of the owners reported at least one behavioral sign typical of fear when exposed to disturbing noises such as fireworks, thunder, and gunshots.

Science Daily reported, “This suggests that whilst they are aware of their pet’s behavioural response when exposed to a loud noise, owners do not necessarily recognise this as being indicative of fear or anxiety. This has relevance both for awareness of compromised welfare, and the methodology for surveying such behaviour.”

Hide and seek

The most common behavioral signs reported:

  • Vocalizing
  • Trembling/ Shaking
  • Hiding
  • Seeking people

Other fear signs not often reported because they aren’t typically seen as fear:

  • Decreased activity
  • Salivation
  • Urination
  • Destruction

Dr Rachel Casey said:

“Our results suggest that the characteristics of dogs, their early environment, and exposure to specific loud noises are involved in the development of fear responses to noises. Interestingly, less than a third of owners sought professional advice about treatment for their pet’s response to noises.”

vacuum cleaner

Causes for Noise Phobias:
It’s difficult to pinpoint the causes of noise phobias. In some cases it’s related to breed (herding breeds being notorious for sound phobias), in other situations it’s simply lack of exposure to those sounds as a puppy. And, it’s not unusual for noise anxiety to increase with age, for no apparent reason. 

Sound Associations:
Dogs are very quick to build associations. Fido may cower when you take out your camera with a flash. But, it only appears that he’s afraid of the camera. He actually may be afraid of the sound of the flash, as it could remind him of lightening during a thunderstorm.

Helping Sound Sensitive Dogs:
Become aware of your home sound environment and any sound environment your dog enters. Take a Sonic Inventory (click here for guidelines) and lower the volume on all home appliances. Sound is like air. We rarely notice these two common elements unless the air suddenly becomes polluted or the sound becomes chaotic. The sonic inventory is one way of becoming aware of the noise in your pet’s environment and take measures to improve it.

Dog is listening music

Provide a healthy sound environment that is pleasant for the 4- and 2-leggeds in your household. Listen to sound samples of species specific music for both dogs and cats. Invite your 4-legged friends in for a listen. Notice their behavior. Do they move closer to the sound source or away from it?
Note: If you are playing the music on a computer, it’s always best to play through external speakers with good sound quality. We have found that it does make a difference for Fido and Fluffy.

Do you have a sound sensitive dog or cat? What has helped them? Thanks for sharing your experiences in a comment below.

fetch-lisas-blog-graphicRelated:
5 Surprising Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Canine Household
5 Signs of a Responsible Dog Owner
7 Tips for Calming Your Dog During Fireworks

13 Responses to How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Sound Sensitive?

  1. Lise Engel says:

    In the last photo on this page, the dog wears what appears to be either a pair of head-sets or something that blocks noise.
    Could you tell me what they are and where they are available? I live in NYC and my sweet dog is deeply fearful of the sound of the subway train, especially when walking under an overpass or when I’ve attempted to walk over the bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
    Thanks

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Lise – That’s a stock photo, so I’m sorry to report I don’t know where to get the headsets. I’m guessing that most dogs wouldn’t find them comfortable and leave them on, although every dog is different.

      Have you tried conditioning your dog to the calming tunes of iCalmDog at home and then bringing the iCalmDog with you over bridges and near subways? It has helped many dogs on the go.

  2. I am a Native American flute player. I had a dog that was sound sensitive and also (at times) into everything. I would play my flute in relaxing tones, and often, he would quiet down, and often drift off to sleep moments later. I too, am sound sensitive, and also an Intuitive Healer, so I understand more about sensory overload and anxiety.

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Kim – Good for you for being so sound aware and paying attention to his sound environment. I’m not at all surprised that the sounds of your Native American flute playing calmed him. It would work for me too.

  3. Florence Baribeau says:

    Sara, my 3-pds, 10-yrs old miniature Doberman Pincher is very sensitive with any loud music and my vaccum. I’ve noticed that when she was little and I knew I had to make changes.

    :-(( At home, in my car I keep the music very low and for the vaccum I simply put her in my bedroom, she stays in her bed while I do my job. Both ways has helped my dog tremendously but I do miss my loud music specially in the car… great post!

  4. Our son and his wife got a puppy that was born around the 4th of July on a farm in Nevada. Recently, they were walking the pup during the Reno Air Races, during which there
    was an event “Tora, tora, tora!” – a re-enactment of Pearl Harbor. While they reported that it felt like they were being bombed, the pup seemed not to care. They think that he was desensitized because of all the fireworks he was born into. So, it’s not all dogs who are sensitive, it seems.

  5. Cathy says:

    My dog, Myah (7yo spayed malamute) has recently become frightened when we use the toaster or microwave or open the freezer door. When we start to prepare a meal, she will “woof” at us and scratch the door to get out fast. Sometimes I’ll find her huddled up in the bathroom. We don’t know why she has developed these fears but suspect it’s the sounds we are making including rustling plastic which brings most dos running because that means FOOD! Poor Myah … any suggestions for helping her?

  6. Angela Waters says:

    My husband and I were blessed with our dog, Gracie, almost 4 months ago. She is a 6 year old lab mix. Her rescue dad informed us that she really was fearful of Fireworks noises and thunderstorms were not her favorite thing. We made her a Fireworks safe bunker for 4th of July time (removed doors from large closet, placed a card table and rug in space and covered table with a comforter). We have left the bunker in place and find her using it as a den and she sometimes uses it during storms. Through a Dog’s Ear cds have also helped. Thank you. She is very smart and sweet and is completing training to become a behavioral health therapy dog. As we all know, sound sensitive dogs can still be a wonderful blessing to others and have a lot of love to offer.

  7. Rhonda Jones says:

    Just received the iCalmDog 2.0 and the Booster for my precious Emma Kay and wow what a difference. It has been running for nine hours a day for two days and this morning started the third day without having to recharge. My rowdy Beagle has loved her original iCalmDog and the set of CD’s that I purchased for her when she was a young thing. The “car” CD was a life saver as she experienced car sickness as a pup. She will be three years old on Dec. 23rd of this year and I ordered the new 2.0 and Booster for a combined birthday and Christmas present. Of course, I couldn’t wait to try it out. I would like to ask about the volume as I’ve always worried about playing music, etc. too loud. I don’t want to play it too loud but also don’t want her not to be able to hear it easily. How can I judge the perfect volume? I truly believe you are a miracle worker and I can’t say enough good things about the iCalmDog series. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Lisa Spector says:

      I’m so glad to hear how much Emma Kay is enjoying iCalmDog. That is music to my ears

      In terms of your question about volume, we recommend playing the music at a gentle volume that is comfortable for you. In other words, if you were home listening to the music all day, would it be comfortable? In general, most people play it too loud, and we don’t recommend that. Of course, with iCalmDog, it depends on the proximity to Emma Kay. You can also observe her behavior and see if she goes up closer to the device. I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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