Do loud noises make your dog nervous? Help them stay calm with this trainer’s simple five step process

Dog watching fireworks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's fast-approaching that time of year again that many of us dog owners both love and loathe.

On the one hand, the weather is warmer, there's more sunshine and the days are longer, which means being able to enjoy the great outdoors with our pups more. But on the other hand, it's also the start of the summer holiday season, which often means parties and fireworks.

For some of our pups, loud noises are so stressful that even dishing out the best dog treats isn't enough to distract them.

Thankfully, in a recent Instagram post, expert trainer and behaviorist Renee Rhoades shared her simple five-step starter guide for sound desensitization and we highly recommend giving it a go!

Before working on sound desensitization with your pup, it can be helpful to understand why loud noises bother our dogs so much.

"Dogs can hear high-frequency sounds better than us," explains Rhoades. Humans range from 12-20,000 Hertz, while dogs can hear up to 45,000 Hertz. In fact the highest sound a dog can hear doesn't register for us at all. Think about that next time you tell your dog nothing is there!"

Rhoades goes on to say that loud noises like fireworks and sirens are high-frequency sounds, which explains why dogs will often have a stronger reaction to those.

The good news is that the anxiety in dogs that's often triggered by loud noises can be overcome through desensitization work. Here's how:

1. Choose a sound your dog doesn't like (such as fireworks, the doorbell, police sirens etc) and find a video of these sounds on YouTube. You then want to play it for your dog — but with one caveat. "The sound needs to be at the lowest volume possible," Rhoades stresses.

2. Next, you want to position yourself and your dog as far away from the noise as possible but in a location where you can still hear it.

3. Distract your dog while you have the sounds playing. "Feed or play with your dog while the sound plays for a few seconds," says Rhoades. You can use treats, kibble or one of the best dog toys for this.

4. Repeat this process two to three times.

5. Once you've done this, focus on slowly and gently increasing your dog's exposure to the noise. "Gradually increase the sound and decrease the distance in each session if your dog is comfortable with the current level of sound," Rhoades advises.

Sound desensitization takes time, patience and consistency, so don't be disheartened if your dog doesn't respond well to begin with. This sort of things is a marathon not a sprint.

"When introducing potentially scary sounds to your dog, it's best to go at their pace," Rhoades explains. If you see any signs of discomfort in their body language, stop right away.

For pointers on what to look out for, be sure to check out our guide to how to read dog body language.

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Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.