Many owners seek help for fear responses to noises ('noise phobias') in dogs when this response is extreme and / or impacts on their lifestyle. Some dogs show fear responses which are quite obvious: inside the house this might include pulling all the contents of a cupboard out and clambering inside, hiding under the bed, running from room to room, trembling, shaking or toileting. Noises encountered outside can result in dogs running away from their owners in panic, potentially across roads or into other dangerous situations. Owners are more likely to seek help with their dog if they see these more extreme behaviours.

However, like most 'behaviour problems' there are many instances where dogs are worried by loud noises, but show more subtle signs. In these cases, owners may not recognize there is a problem.

Picture of a dog with subtle signs of anxiety

Behaviours like moving under the table or sofa, being very 'clingy' with owners, salivating or showing more subtle behavioural signs of anxiety (e.g. licking lips) are also indicators that dogs are worried by loud noises. These dogs may be just as stressed as those that do the dramatic stuff.

Why do dogs have such variable responses to loud noises?

This is partly due to their individual characteristics, but also their different learning experiences. When a dog first hears the loud bang of a firework, he or she may try various behaviours to find a way of 'dealing' with their anxiety. They might, for example, dash about, try hiding in different places and seek attention from their owners. If one of these 'strategies' is effective at reducing their level of stress, it is more likely that they will do this again next time. So, for example, if they find that burying into the bottom of a wardrobe behind all the shoes helps them to cope with noises on the first occasion, they are more likely to seek out this spot the next time fireworks go off. However, some dogs don’t find a strategy that helps them; because nothing that they do works to escape the scary noises, they don’t actively do anything – but they are still very anxious.

It is therefore important that owners recognize any changes in behaviour in their dog associated with loud noises – whether this is obvious things like hiding and barking, or more subtle signs such as seeking attention or showing postural signs of anxiety.

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