Dog Behavior Guide: Why Is My Large Dog Afraid of Loud Noises?
It might be surprising to see a big dog jump or cower in fear at a loud sound, but it’s not uncommon. Many enormous dogs are scared of booming sounds like thunder or fireworks, leaving pet owners asking, “Why is my large dog afraid of loud noises?”
It’s a good question to ask because you want your dog to feel relaxed and calm all the time. Especially if your dog is large, he might present a danger to himself or others when he feels scared. When a dog is suffering from noise aversion, it’s important to address the root cause and take steps to calm them down. Here are our tips for how to handle a large dog who is afraid of loud noises.
Why Is My Large Dog Afraid of Loud Noises?
There are a few reasons that dogs experience fear of noises like thunder and fireworks:
- Sensitive hearing
- Pressure changes
- A breed disposition
- Age may play a role
Your Dog’s Hearing Is More Sensitive Than Yours
The obvious reason that your large dog acts disturbed when they hear a loud noise is that their hearing is more sensitive than yours. The noise itself is being experienced at a greater volume by your dog, who has sensitive ears. So if it sounds loud to you, it definitely sounds loud to them. Furthermore, you can likely explain and understand the loud noise (i.e., a car backfiring on the street or thunder from a faraway storm), while your dog has no idea where it’s coming from or what it means.
Your Dog May Also Be Sensitive to Pressure Changes
If your large dog seems to be disturbed by thunder, specifically, they also might be experiencing the barometric pressure changes associated with a storm. As the amount of air pressure in the atmosphere changes, odors move differently in the air – so your dog’s sensitive nose is being affected as much as their sensitive ears! Pressure change is something your dog experiences with their whole body, which can be disorienting, and they may associate the loud boom of thunder with that uncomfortable experience.
If You’re Scared of the Noise, Your Dog May Be Empathizing with You
If you have fear around a loud noise, your dog might be empathizing with you and learning to be afraid of loud noises because of your reaction. For example, if you have a toddler who is afraid of thunderstorms and cries every time they hear thunder, your dog might be expressing anxiety to mirror the toddler’s. Or, if you hear a car backfiring and the noise startles you, your dog might react similarly because they can see you were disturbed.
Dogs often look to their owners for comfort and to decide if there is a threat. They are extremely intuitive creatures and can tell when we feel nervous or scared, which in turn makes them feel that way, too.
Some Large Breeds Are More Prone to Noise Aversion
Some breeds are also more prone to being scared of loud noises. German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are two large breeds that tend to be more sensitive to loud noises. Because we breed dogs with similar physical traits, they often inherit consistent personality traits, too. Thus, there are several types of large dogs that have accidentally been bred to be afraid of loud noises.
Your Dog’s Age Can Affect Their Discomfort with Noise
Noise sensitivity can appear in puppies as young as three weeks old or geriatric dogs in their last years of life. If the symptoms of noise aversion appear super early in a dog’s life, it’s likely because of some genetic predisposition. It’s also not uncommon for a dog to have no problem with loud noises until they are a senior and start to lose some of their sight or other senses, which can make the loud noises more disturbing.
How to Help Your Large Dog With Noise Sensitivity
There are many things you can do to help a large dog who is struggling with fear of loud noises:
- Ignore the noise
- Don’t punish your dog
- Provide a doggie safe space
- Distract with play
- Create a more pleasant soundscape
Don’t Try to Comfort Your Dog with Snuggles or Sweet Talk
The most important thing when it comes to helping your large dog afraid of loud noises is not to comfort them in the traditional sense. It may be tempting to speak softly to your dog, encouraging them to calm down, and even cuddle or pat them. For most dogs, this has been shown to disturb them further. Your reaction of comfort implies there is something they need to be worried about.
Instead, if your dog’s stress behaviors haven’t become too pronounced, just ignore the noise itself. Often, your dog will look to you to assess whether there is a threat they need to be concerned about. If you don’t react, they might decide it’s not worth any concern and thereby avoid their anxious behaviors.
Punishment for Fear Is Ineffective for Dogs
You should never punish your dog for expressing fear, stress, anxiety, or discomfort. Dogs are highly sensitive creatures and when they communicate their feelings to us, we need to be compassionate and careful with them. If your dog’s noise aversion behaviors are destructive or irritating, focus on creating an environment where they can feel calm – not punishing them for their fearful reaction.
Ensure Your Dog Has an Escape From the Noise
A doggie safe space is a critical part of your home environment if you have a canine companion. Offering your dog a space that is comfortable, with everything they need, not only provides an escape from loud and scary noises, but also ensures they have comfort whenever those noises happen – even if you are away.
Dogs can behave in very erratic ways when they are scared. A dog who has noise aversion might hurt themselves trying to escape a house or bolt out the front door and get lost. If they have a place in their home where they can retreat and experience some relief, these outcomes are less likely.
Distract Your Large Dog from Loud Noises with Play
Distraction can also be an effective method for dealing with your dog when they are feeling scared of a noise. If you can anticipate a loud noise, try to initiate play before the noise happens – not after. As mentioned above, trying to distract your dog or comfort them after the noise has happened can increase their anxiety. Instead, pull out some of their favorite toys or start a game of tug-of-war before the beginning of the fireworks show or the thunderstorm. If they are already playing when the noise starts, they might be having enough fun to ignore the noise itself.
Use Background Noise to Muffle Large Sounds
Background noise is also effective if there are loud, repetitive sounds that you want to distract your dog from. Turning on the television or radio might help your dog calm down and ignore the loud noises outside. Some pet owners even keep a source of white noise in their doggie safe space to drown out any other sounds that might disturb their pet.
Don’t Let Your Dog Suffer Noise Aversion Without Help
If you were wondering, “Why is my large dog afraid of loud noises?”, hopefully, you understand their experience a little better now. The important thing is to provide an opportunity for your dog to get relief when they feel fear. By using our tips for calming a dog, you can make your pet more resilient and relaxed – and a chill dog is good for the whole family!