One big fear many dogs have are fear of noises (loud trucks, fireworks, thunder, etc). When we do puppy consultations at our training, Off-Leash K9 Training, in Kansas City, we always tell people, “Immediately start exposing him/her to as many noises as possible.” Turn on the vacuum, blender, hair dryer, and any other noisy devices you have around the house. I have seen far too many dogs that run and hide at the sound of a loud noise, especially vacuum cleaners and thunder. This can be completely prevented if you expose them to these noises at a young age. Expose your dog to as many noises as possible by the time he is five months old, and while exposing him, make it a positive experience through verbal/physical praise, treats, etc. Keep in mind, it’s NEVER too late to start doing these drills with your dog.
Many people ask, “What to do if you expose your dog to a noise (e.g., a vacuum) and he runs and hides from it?” Very simple—bring him back and make him deal with it. One of the many terms we use for this process is “flooding.” This means you find a noise your dog is afraid of and flood him with that noise repeatedly, every day. Again, flood him with this experience in a positive way, by giving praise, treats, etc. Fear of noises or things is a completely unrealistic fear that dogs have, just like humans. So, by making him sit next to the vacuum cleaner while it’s turned on, he realizes, “I’m not being hurt, I don’t feel any pain, and I am getting praised for this.” After a short while, that unrealistic fear will go away and the dog will soon realize that it is not a big deal and will soon pay no attention to it. They main key is, make them face it and do not let them run and hide, repeat until he/she no longer shows a reaction towards the noise. At our dog training in Kansas City, we work with a lot of dogs who fear noises.
If your puppy hears a lot of noise such as thunder, fireworks, or a car door slam outside and he runs to me for comfort? Never comfort your dog when he is afraid of something. This only reinforces the fear. Comfort is simply another kind of praise. Think about that for a second. When you comfort a dog, how is it different from praising him? You are petting them and talking cute to them in both instances. So when you break it down, you are praising your dog for being afraid of something. Now, any time it has a reason to be afraid, it will run to you in order to reap the praise that goes along with the action. So, never comfort your dog for being afraid. If he hears a loud noise and comes running to you, do not acknowledge him, do not look at him, touch him, pet him, or talk to him. Again, if he sees it does not get a response from you and you do not make a big deal out of it, he will not make a big deal out of it, either.
Start desensitizing your dogs to noises as soon as possible, and within a very short amount of time, you will notice a much more confident dog! Below, you can see a great video of our dog training in Northern Virginia who have done some noise desensitization training, as you see, they completely ignore the noises we produce!