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Golden Retriever laying down on a dog bed at home.
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Plenty of dogs are afraid of loud noises. Most dogs take them in stride, but those who don’t can be difficult to help. The Fourth of July, for example, comes with fireworks that can be scary for many pets.

Fear of loud noises is stressful for dogs and can limit activities they can enjoy. Thunder, fireworks, and loud vehicles are among the most common noise phobia triggers. Dogs’ sensitivity to the changes in barometric pressure can trigger fearful reactions to thunder long before humans even hear it. Pay attention to weather forecasts and schedules of holiday fireworks displays so you can prepare your dog before the ruckus starts.

Here are some ways to help your dog feel safe when things go boom:

Distract Them With a Game or Activity

Before your dog has a chance to get upset about a noise, distract with a game of fetch or tug, or other favorite activity. Practice some tricks or obedience skills and give nice rewards for focusing on you. When your dog can’t focus, stop. You wouldn’t want to create an unpleasant association with games and behaviors that are normally fun.

Basenji puppy hiding under furniture.
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Reward Calm Behavior

Don’t wait for your dog to exhibit stress before you give attention. Play calming music or turn on the television; these may help to muffle the sounds.

Provide a Safe Haven for Your Dog

Whether it’s a crate or a bed, make sure your dog has a safe place away from the source of the loud noise. You can also give them a special long-lasting treat or a hollow chew toy that can be stuffed with something good.

Golden Retriever laying down on a dog bed at home.
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Leave Their Crate Door Open

When anxious or scared, some dogs may try to get out of their crates. If the door is closed, they could potentially injure themselves while trying to get out. However, be sure to keep outside doors closed, unless the dog is crated or behind an interior door — this will eliminate any chance to bolt outside in fear. Dogs can be injured or lost in their efforts to get away from frightening noises.

If your dog’s fearfulness turns to panic that results in attempts to escape a crate or the house, consult your veterinarian. They may be able to prescribe medication for their anxiety. about medication to help.

Condition Your Dog to Loud Noises Early

If your dog is a puppy, you have the opportunity to condition to loud noises early. You can condition your older dog too, just take it very slowly because it may take months to alleviate established fears. Get a helper to drop a book (from a good distance) as you reward and play with the dog. It’s normal if the dog startles at first. Stay calm and cheerful yourself, give treats, and your dog will learn that it’s nothing to worry about. The book dropping can get gradually louder and nearer as the dog is less affected by the noise.

Australian Shepherd puppy looking out the window waiting.
Mark Herreid/Shutterstock

You can also play recordings of scary noises at a low volume while you feed your dog, play favorite games, or engage in any favorite activity. Gradually increase the volume as the dog feels comfortable. If at any point you see fear, reduce the volume to a tolerable level and start again.

Try Using Ear Muffs for Noise Protection

Ear muffs specially made for dogs might be helpful. Introduce them to your dog gradually, as you would any new thing. For the first few days, place them near the bowl as they eat. Then, put them loosely around the dog’s neck for a few minutes while you give lots of special treats. Over several days, move gradually to putting them over their ears, for a few minutes at a time while again giving more good treats.

Any calming device, whether it be earmuffs, soft music, or a snug dog shirt, should be occasionally used when it’s quiet, the weather is good and your dog is happy. This will help develop positive associations with them — not just scary ones.

Related article: Is Your Dog Noise Sensitive? Sources of Anxiety You May Not Even Notice
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