Many dogs struggle with noise sensitivities and the resulting behaviors. These are among the most challenging to change. Typically, these dogs have difficulty finding a relaxed state of mind and remaining bodily – and often vocally – quiet. Triggers can be undetectable to us humans, which adds to the complexity of making changes. Some triggers are not only noise-related, but visual. Large vehicles or pedestrians (with or without dogs) passing the house are common.
Boredom contributes to the problem. Over awareness of stimuli in the environment is a trait that can be offset with enrichment and mental stimulation activities. Offer meals in food foraging toys and have an arsenal of bones and chews. Carve out several 5-10 minute interactive play times during the day.
Training your dog not only helps with specific situations in daily life, but also patterns the dog to look to his human for directives. This takes enormous stress off the dog! Help your dog find other mental engagement, besides zoning in on noises and movements.
Identify the Triggers and Recognize Signals
Observe your dog to identify triggers and thresholds. Your dog’s signals will tell you when he can no longer hold a constructive focus. Some dogs are always “on” and must be actively taught to relax.
There is something of an art – as well as a protocol – to learning to relax and simply share dog/human time and space. It starts with asking your dog to lie down. There are no other cues. Little to no touching or talking.
De-sensitize and Reinforce Behaviors Carefully
Unintentional reinforcement of undesirable behaviors only makes them stronger. Dogs find their own gratification in undesirable behaviors, such as barking and running to windows.
You can de-sensitize dogs to some noises with gradual exposure and reinforcement. Virtually any sound can be downloaded and played at increasing volumes/intensities that the dog can tolerate. Here’s an opportunity to mark and reinforce calm and quiet behavior. The best reinforcement is high value food. You are attempting to change a conditioned emotional response. Petting and verbal praise, as secondary reinforcers, are insufficient.
Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel CPDT-KA, 2020 all rights reserved
Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC