Q: When my dog hears any loud noise, such as thunder, gunshots, fireworks, etc., he is very destructive. I have two large holes in the sheetrock wall in the garage that he has clawed trying to get away from the noise. Do you have any suggestions on how to train him or other suggestions how to break this behavior? I’ve tried using a natural supplement for calming dogs but it doesn’t seem to help. Any help you can give me will be appreciated.
A: There are several steps you can take to try and help your dog along. I’d suggest hiring a professional trainer to set you up on a behavior modification program. You can find a trainer that uses only positive training methods through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.APDT.com) or The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (www.NADOI.org).
That being said, the process involves systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning. These are step-by-step procedures which will gradually change the way your dog feels about the noises. If the dog is already mature, the behavior may be pretty locked in. So you may never reach a stage where he is ever perfectly comfortable with these noises, but most dogs can show improvement. Do the best you can to minimize the effects by keeping him away from situations where he can be distressed. On the 4th of July you can take him away from areas where there are fireworks, and/or play music in the house a little louder than you might normally. There is a product called Dog Appeasing Pheromone which helps some dogs relax. Other dogs are put on tranquilizers for severe cases of sound sensitivity. There’s no one answer for every dog.
Whatever you do, don’t leave him alone in these situations as this can cause serious emotional harm which easily leads to behavioral problems.