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Treatment options

Noise anxiety can be treated, no matter what the stage – and it should be treated, because it’s stressful for dogs. Treatment options include environmental management and behaviour modification, as well as both medicinal and nonmedicinal solutions. The best results are often achieved by combining different options. Early recognition and treatment may improve the results.

Noise anxiety often requires life-long treatment. The aim is to reduce the dog’s distress and fear, and eventually teach the fearful dog to cope with loud situations. When left untreated, noise anxiety is likely to progress and can also make the dog prone to developing other anxieties3.

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SOME ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGES ARE EASY TO ARRANGE, such as closing the curtains during thunderstorms or fireworks and using background music or television to muffle the scary sounds. Heavy, light impermeable curtains work the best.

These changes won’t cure your dog’s noise anxiety, but they can help to reduce the distress he is experiencing. Environmental management is a lifelong treatment method. With time, you will learn what works best for your dog. Avoid exposure to loud noises and do not take your dog out during storms or fireworks. Try putting up heavy curtains to create a quiet, calm, safe place for your dog at home. This place can be his crate, a dim/dark room, or a closet.

Find out what space works best for your dog and train him to use this safe spot. Training should occur only when your dog is relaxed. Associate the safe spot with positive feelings by letting the dog find favourite toys and treats there.

Distracting your dog with a favourite toy or playtime can help re-direct their attention away from scary sounds. This positive distraction will only work if your dog is not already anxious. Remember to stay calm. Maintaining composed behaviour will also help your dog be more relaxed.

BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION IS NOT A QUICK SOLUTION. It’s a long-term treatment, but if the modification methods are correctly executed, they can relieve the dog’s anxiety and fear. There are two main methods of behaviour modification, desensitization and counterconditioning.

In desensitization, the dog is gradually exposed to the sound he is originally afraid of. Start from a low level, low enough for the dog to remain calm. Increase the intensity of the sound slowly each day. Keep increasing the intensity as long as the dog continues to remain calm. This method is likely to take several weeks, or longer.

In counterconditioning, the dog is rewarded with a treat when not reacting fearfully to a sound he was originally afraid of. For example; the dog is exposed to a scary sound in a very low intensity-level. Reward your dog immediately for staying calm. When repeated often enough, the sound will become a predictor for the treat. Counterconditioning usually takes weeks, sometimes months before gaining results. The dog should be trained in different settings, and only when the dog is relaxed.

Behavioural modification methods are usually effective when conducted correctly. To ensure success, it might be a good idea to consult with a dog trainer or a veterinarian who specializes in behaviour modification or a dog trainer before beginning. Remember to stay calm. Watch your dog and learn what kind of behaviour calms him.

ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN FOR HELP WHEN MANAGING NOISE ANXIETY. There are two prescription medicines for dogs with noise fear problems.

Dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel is for the alleviation of acute anxiety and fear associated with noise. This medicine is used in acute situations as a short-term treatment. Imepitoin tablets are for the reduction of anxiety and fear associated with noise phobia and must be given two days before the triggering event. Your veterinarian will know which treatment suits your dog the best.

NON-MEDICINAL TREATMENTS include pheromone products, natural remedies, food supplements, and wearables. Non-medicinal products may not meet the same level of quality, efficacy, and safety requirements as licenced medicines, but they can still help your dog. It might be a good idea to try these under the supervision of a veterinary behaviourist.

Pheromones imitate the natural pheromones that a mother dog releases to calm her puppies. Food supplements contain natural ingredients that may have a calming effect on the dog. The most commonly used wearables are pressure wraps or shirts, which work in a similar way as swaddling a baby.

3) Overall et al 2001. Frequency of nonspecific clinical signs in dogs with separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, and noise phobia, J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 219, 467–473.