How to Help a Dog That Is Scared of Loud Noises

How to Help a Dog That Is Scared of Loud Noises

A fear of loud noises is very common amongst dogs. In fact, it is estimated that almost half of all dogs are frightened of loud noises, with the top culprits being fireworks, thunderstorms, gunshots, vacuum cleaners, alarms and sirens. Signs your dog is scared can range from trembling, shaking and restlessness to loss of appetite, going to the toilet inside, destructive behaviour and trying to escape. 

The good news is that if your dog is showing signs of being scared of certain noises, there are things you can do to help. In this article, our expert explains what causes a fear of loud noises, the best ways to prevent noise phobia, and how to help your dog manage and overcome their fear. 

Why Are Dogs Afraid of Loud Noises?

Before implementing strategies to help your dog with loud noises, it’s important to understand why some dogs are so afraid. Noise phobias can develop in dogs of all ages, although dogs over a year of age are more likely to suffer. This can happen for several different reasons, including:

  1. Genetics: Some breeds are predisposed to being more sensitive to loud noises. In one study, Norwegian Buhund, Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and Lagotto Romagnolo were the most sensitive to noise, while Boxer, Chinese Crested and Great Dane had lower frequencies of fear created by noise. In studies of fear responses to noises, researchers also found that age, sex, reproductive status and length of time with the owner impacted how dogs react to sounds like fireworks. 
  2. Lack of Exposure: Dogs who haven't been exposed to loud noises during their critical socialisation period (before 14 weeks) may be more prone to developing fear later in life. As Dr Borns-Weil writes for PetMD, puppies that have insufficient exposure to a variety of normal stimuli during their first four months of life are at higher risk of being overly fearful as adults.
  3. Negative Experience: A single traumatic event involving loud noises or repeated exposure to frightening noises, such as fireworks, can cause mild fear to extreme phobic reactions in dogs. 

How to Get a Puppy Used to Loud Noises

The best way to prevent a fear of noises in dogs is to expose them to noises when they are young. This should include household noises, such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners and the doorbell, and outside noises that don’t happen within your home, such as fireworks, traffic, and thunder. As a general rule of thumb, you should make sure your dog is relaxed or engaged in positive behaviours before you expose them to sounds, starting with softer sounds and increasing the volume and intensity over time.

Observe your puppy's behaviour closely during exposure to loud noises and make sure you stop if they seem anxious or distressed. This includes monitoring their body  language as there could be more subtle signs they are scared, such as averting their gaze, pinning back their ears, lowering their head, yawning or licking their lips. 

In general, dogs that are safely and gradually exposed to many different sounds during their first 16 weeks are better able to cope with loud, frightening sounds than those who aren't. 

Give your pup their favourite toy or treats when exposing them to new experiences (including sounds) and people to help them create positive associations.

How to Help Dogs Scared of Loud Noises

If your dog shows signs of fear around loud noises, here’s how you can help them to cope.

1. Stay Calm

If your dog is reacting to loud noises, make sure you stay calm and follow your normal routine. If you tell your dog off or behave in a way that is different from usual, this can make them feel more anxious and distressed. 

Remember, your pup is looking to you for signals. If your response is fear or frustration when your dog is scared, then this will only deepen their sense that the situation is unsafe. While a reassuring tone and some cuddles are OK, try your best to ignore the behaviour if your dog is not in danger to reinforce that the loud noise is no big deal. This is because you may inadvertently reward fearful behaviour by coddling or soothing your dog excessively in times of distress.

2. Block Out Sound

Depending on the source of the noise, you can make the environment feel safer for your dog by blocking out the noise. For example, if your dog is afraid of fireworks or thunderstorms, you can keep your dog inside, make sure to shut the windows and blinds, and play music or white noise to drown out the sound. If your dog is afraid of fireworks and you're out on a walk before a display, be prepared to leave earlier than expected to avoid exposure. 

As well as blocking out the audio and visual stimuli, you can help your dog block out the sounds by keeping them distracted, such as with a game of tug or fetch or through practising some fun tricks.

Indeed, much like humans, regular exercise and mental stimulation are essential for overall canine wellness and can help reduce stress, keeping your pup happier and healthier over time. 

3. Create a Safe Haven

You can create a safe, comfortable space in your home where your dog can retreat during loud noises, such as a crate with soft blankets, toys and treats in a quiet area of the house. It's important that you don't use this spot as a punishment place as your dog might associate this with punishment (negative feelings) rather than comfort (positive feelings), which would counteract the point of the safe haven.

Toys and treats in this location, on the other hand, help to foster a positive association with the area and can help to keep your dog distracted and calm during loud noises. 

4. Training 

Desensitisation and counterconditioning are powerful behaviour modification techniques used to help dogs overcome fear. The goal is to expose your dog to the feared stimulus (in this case, loud noises) at a low intensity while pairing it with something positive, such as treats or playtime.

Another effective method to keep dogs calm during loud noises is relaxation training. This is where owners induce relaxation, such as through massage, and then associate this with a word to classically condition a calm physiological state. This cue can then be used to induce relaxation during stressful events, such as fireworks, thunderstorms or during household chores.

A similar approach is to reward relaxed behaviours, such as giving your dog a treat for settling down on the blanket, without saying anything to them. Over time, you can build up distractions by practising the ‘settle’ in increasingly busy areas, including areas with loud noises, to teach your dog to relax and settle without needing to be asked.

5. Use a Hush Muff 

Using ear or head coverings can help to reduce exposure to loud noises and calm your dog down. At Soothe and Settle, we have created The Hush Muff, an anti-anxiety head covering with a unique, registered design, that is tailored to fit snugly around your dog's head. As well as muffling the impact of loud noises, it wraps your pet in a gentle embrace for an additional sense of comfort and calm.

It is recommended that you introduce the coverings to your dog in a positive and relaxed environment before they experience the loud noise, and to monitor their behaviour while wearing the cover to check for signs of discomfort or distress. 

6. Consider Herbal Supplements 

Some mild calming medication may give your dog short-term relief. However, natural herbs like chamomile, valerian root and lavender also have calming effects and can be given in supplement form to help an anxious or distressed dog to remain calm.

When using herbal supplements for your dog, it's important to consult with your veterinarian first, especially if your dog has any underlying health conditions or is taking other medications. It's also important to use high-quality supplements from reputable sources to ensure they are safe for your dog to take. 


Helping your dog overcome their fear of loud noises requires patience, understanding and commitment, in particular as what works for one dog might not work for the other. However, through trying out the strategies outlined in this guide, you can help your dog feel safer and more secure during loud noises, and ultimately prevent or diminish their fear. 

Back to blog

About The Author

Rachel Macdougall is a professional dog trainer, with previous experience as a professional dog walker and boarder. She is qualified in Canine First Aid and Canine Holistic Health, and has a Level 3 Dog Behaviour Diploma. Rachel is passionate about helping owners to find calming solutions for their anxious and reactive dogs. Part of this is executed through her role as Founder & CEO of Soothe and Settle. Soothe and Settle is The Home of the Hush Muff, a unique head covering for anxious dogs which muffles external noises to help your pup feel safe and relaxed.