Fear of thunderstorms
breeds, Aussies are no exception. The trait of being acutely aware and extra sensitive can be
a funny combination and can sometimes work against us.
When we use the term sound sensitive we generally mean that when a sound occurs, the dog is
sensitive to it and has a negative reaction, usually fear in the form of shaking, drooling,
trembling and hiding. Often when a thunderstorm occurs, the loud claps of thunder are what set
the dog off. Fireworks are also a loud noise that has been known to affect dogs as well as any
other loud noise such as gun shots and cars back firing.
Being sound sensitive is not something your dog is born with, they are predisposed to being
more sensitive than other breeds simply by being Aussies, but the behaviours that they develop
are more of a learned behaviour over time and they learn these behaviours from their
environment and surroundings.
We have found that dogs who are living in single animal families are more likely to be sound
sensitive than dogs living in groups, the reason is because the older dogs who are already
confident will pass that confidence on to the younger dogs in the family and the younger dogs
will never think loud noise is a reason to be nervous. The only exception is if the older dog is
already sound sensitive and reacts negatively, then that dog will pass the fear onto all of the
younger dogs who come in after wards.
So what can you do to help prevent your dog from being sound sensitive.
When you bring your puppy home you want to expose them to loud noises slowly and gradually,
sit out on your porch during a thunder storm and bring out the puppies bowl of food. Let him
associate eating with noises. Teach your puppy to do fun things like tugging and fetch, play with
the puppy during the storm and make sure he is having fun. If a loud crack of thunder happens
and the puppy startles at all, ignore the reaction, DO NOT in any way coddle him, instead
redirect him to playing and having fun and take his mind off of the loud noise. If you do not
make a big deal about it, he won't either. The key is to start as young as possible. As a
breeder in the summer if the weather is nasty and we have loud thunder, I will open all the
windows and if possible take the litter of puppies out onto the covered deck, when they see that
their mom, the other dogs and the humans are not phased by the loud noises, they quickly
settle and are not bothered by it.
If you have an older dog and you notice that he is starting to be bothered by loud noises you are
at a tipping point. You can try working with them and encouraging brave behaviours through
play in the house where the dog is secure, DO NOT have a dog who is in any way nervous of
loud noises outside off leash, too many dogs bolt and end up never being seen again.
If your dog is already at a high level of fear with hiding, shaking, drooling, often seeking shelter
in a bedroom under a bed or in a bathroom bathtub then you are likely beyond training. There
are homeopathic remedies such as Rescue Remedy that you can try, Thunder shirts that the
dog can wear work on most dogs and in extreme cases you may need a veterinarian
The best way to avoid having a sound sensitive dog is to purchase your puppy from confident
parents who are not passing on fearful genetics and starting to work with the puppy right at 8
weeks old to get them used to loud noises.