We put our dogs through a humdinger of a “trial by fire” last week! Fortunately, none of them proved noise sensitive, but we got a big surprise when we went to our weekly obedience classes.
The place our obedience club meets is a doggy-daycare and groomer by day. We rent their playroom spaces on Tuesday evenings for our dog club classes. Because of a series of unfortunate events unrelated to dogs, the flooring had to be replaced. We missed a couple of weeks, then had only half the space available.
Last Tuesday we had no idea that the installers would still be working through the evening. We didn’t know that extensive use of drills, jackhammers, electric saws, hammers, etc. would accompany our training. Just a thin wall separates the two areas. The workers weren’t visible – but we heard them loud and clear!
It was the loudest obedience class ever. Hope is teaching the Novice competition level. If you’ve met her, she’s not the quietest person on the planet, but she’s not that loud, either. By the end of the hour, a headache and sore throat went home with her. Her students would probably say she yells at them every week – but this time it was surely true.
Tango is retired and stays home to watch hockey on TV (Go, Blackhawks!), but the rest of the dogs come to class. We were a little surprised and extremely delighted when all three dogs were unfazed by the racket going on around them.
Not a universal truth
All of the dogs in the classes noticed the noise. And the vast majority heard it and then accepted it as part of the background. We’re in the middle of a six-week session, so there weren’t any new dogs in class. They’re all accustomed to the place, the routine, and the other dogs. That helps a lot when there’s a new distraction around. And it was extremely distracting!
There were a couple of dogs that had a hard time. In talking to their owners, we discovered they’re also the ones afraid of thunderstorms, fireworks, and other loud noises. We know of lots of dogs who are noise sensitive. A friend’s Havanese puppy is terrified when trucks pass their car on the highway.
Helping your noise sensitive dog
There aren’t really any quick fixes for dogs who are noise sensitive. When are dogs are puppies we try to keep the noise level as high as possible in their surroundings – teaching them that sound can’t hurt them. But even an older dog can get used to loud sounds.
Most people’s first instinct is to soothe their dogs when they’re startled or afraid. Instead, try treating the incident matter-of-factly, even encouraging the dog to check out what startled them. In the case of thunder, try finding a video or sound recording and just playing it in the background. Start softly and increase the volume as the dog learns to ignore it.
Taking cues from you
If you treat noise as a normal part of life, chances are your dog will learn to accept it. Dogs really do take their cues on how to behave from their owners. If you’re hyper-alert, anxious, or stressed, your dog will read that anxiety right down the leash.
Of course, it doesn’t help if you’re a person who startles easily, like Fran. She’s been known to jump out of her seat at movie surprises. And her dogs jump right along with her. Speaking as her sister, it’s pretty funny. Fran doesn’t agree.