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My Pet World: Ways To Help Dogs Overcome Fear Of Loud Noises


Last updated 4/20/2020 at 12:26pm

Dear Cathy,

Lulu is a 1-1/2-year-old lab-hound rescue who has been with us since she was 8 weeks old. Until three weeks ago, we took long daily walks, to her delight. The word “walk” or the sight of her harness still gets her extremely excited. She goes through all the motions of wanting to go for a walk, but once outside will freeze only a few steps from our driveway. We’ve tried treats, but no change.

We had been on a long walk with a friend and her puppy just before this happened. During that walk, the friend stopped to have a conversation with a person in an idling diesel truck. Noises frighten Lulu (pots in the kitchen, compressors, vacuum, etc.) I’m pretty sure she’s afraid now because of this truck. Any suggestions on reducing her fear of noises and getting her to walk again? She really needs the exercise. Rosanne, Suffolk County, New York

Dear Rosanne,

Loud noises can be very stressful for some pets. Talk to your vet about an anti-anxiety medication that will lessen Lulu’s reaction to noises. Also, consider getting her a canine pheromone collar to relax her for the next 30 days or buying canine pheromone spray to spritz on her leash or on your legs so she can inhale this right before and during her walk. Dogs (and people) need to relax to learn.

Once she is relaxed, introduce her to a few conditioning techniques. For example, find recordings of traffic noises online for her to listen to at low volume. You can increase the volume over time, but only to the level where she remains comfortable. Keep rewarding her for being relaxed around this noise.

Take Lulu for a car ride and park and roll down the windows a bit where she can hear some traffic sounds. Again, don’t overwhelm her. You always want to increase exposure to sound incrementally to the point where she remains comfortable. Sit for five minutes and build up to 15-minute experiences over the next few weeks before driving her home.

If her comfort is improving, park the car down the street after one of your drives, and walk her home from there. You can increase the walk from half a block to around the block. She just needs to know her outings don’t have to be scary and that she will end up in the comfort of her home again

When you are ready to start walking her again, try walking her at night instead when it’s much less sound stressful. Once she is happy with her nighttime walks, you can introduce her to daytime walks again.

If after all this, she still freezes when you take her outside, then get a lawn chair and sit with her in the front yard for a while. Do this every day, increasing the time outside so long as she remains relaxed. Be patient. Dogs that are sensitive to sound need time to adjust. Eventually, she will want to go for a walk again.

Dear Cathy,

I just read your recent column regarding a reader wanting to help feral cats in her community. It was from L. Nelson of Tucson. May I suggest an addition to your suggestions? Alley Cat Allies’ website has a ton of helpful how-to information and resources for people wanting to help feral cats. Jan, Wisconsin

Dear Jan,

I am happy to share Alley Cat Allies as a resource for people helping feral/community cats. They are also offering some advice for community cat caregivers during this coronavirus crisis. They are recommending that healthy community cat caregivers carry on with their care and feeding routines so the cats aren’t put “in grave danger,” said Becky Robinson, president and founder of ACA. These cats are dependent on humans for food.

But ACA adds that caregivers should only do so long as they can observe proper social distancing and are not infected with or experiencing symptoms of coronavirus or under mandatory isolation for exposure to a person with coronavirus.

Regular community cat caregivers who are unwell or under quarantine should reach out to friends and local TNR groups to check on and feed the cats under their care, they say. If a caregiver cannot find someone to help, call ACA at (855) 340-CATS and they will help find someone in the community to assist you. Check’s “Crisis Guidance for Caregivers” for more information.

(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to

Please include your name, city, and state. (c) 2020 Distributed By Tribune Content Agency, LLC.)


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