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Fears of People, Places, and Noises

Dogs can be frightened or phobic of people, places, noises and objects. Common noise phobias are to thunder, fireworks, hot air balloons, trash trucks or construction equipment. We’ve also seen dogs that are afraid of outside air conditioning compressors, and various indoor appliances, including the ‘beep’ from the microwave and smoke alarms.

If your Fido is afraid of people, the most common reason is because he isn’t well socialized. Poorly socialized dogs didn’t have the chance to have pleasant experiences with all different types of people during puppy hood. A lack of socialization can also contribute to noise phobias and generalized fears of anything new and different.

Your dog needn’t have had a traumatic experience with something to become frightened of it. Just because your dog is afraid of certain people, don’t jump to the conclusion that he was abused before you got him. Poor socialization is more likely the cause. Dogs seem more likely to be afraid of men then women, for reasons not entirely understood. In general, men appear more intimidating just because they are physically larger, speak in deeper voices, and are usually less “delicate” or gentle in their movements as compared to women.

Most dogs that are afraid of people can learn to be friendlier, but some may never be social butterflies who are at ease with everyone. Some fearful dogs are also defensive, meaning they are threatening or aggressive to familiar or unfamiliar people as well. If your dog has snapped at or bitten someone we recommend seeking help from a qualified behavior consultant immediately, preferably a certified applied or veterinary behaviorist. Speak first with your veterinarian so potential medical problems for aggression can be evaluated.

Some dogs are more prone to fearful behavior than others. Although fearful behaviors aren’t inherited, a dog’s genetic makeup can result in a tendency, or lower threshold, for fear related problems.

Almost all fearful behavior problems require counter conditioning and desensitization techniques to resolve. These procedures expose your dog to softer, quieter, or more tolerable versions of whatever he is afraid of while pairing these events with something overwhelmingly enjoyable for your dog. Usually, this is an irresistible tidbit, or perhaps a toy your Fido is fanatic about.

It’s vital that the behavior modification techniques be used correctly, and precisely, otherwise they either won’t work or can make the problem worse.

For noise phobias such as fireworks, gunshots, etc., the sounds are difficult to re-create with the necessary varying degrees of intensity. You may need to use a specially made audio CD of the specific sound. See the product links below for ordering information. Not all dogs react to a recording in the same way they do the “real noise”, but in many cases these recordings can be extremely helpful.


Whether you work with a professional or take the “do-it-yourself” route, our audio CD on Using Counter Conditioning and Desensitization Techniques Effectively is what you need to help you use these procedures correctly.

If your Fido is afraid of noises, an audio CD of thunderstorms, fireworks, or other sounds may be useful with the counter conditioning and desensitization procedures. Helping Fido has a variety CDS specially created for use with noise sensitive dogs. These include recorded noises of Thunderstorms, Fireworks, Guns, Car trips, Children, Dogs, Cars and Trucks, Kitchens and Vacuums and Flight.

We even have a special one for dogs bothered by sounds from babies. We recommend using this product in conjunction with our complete program on Helping Fido Welcome Your New Baby.

While particularly good for dogs that don’t travel well in the car or are fearful at the veterinary clinic or grooming salon, try the Calming Cap™ to partially block your dog’s vision of whatever she sees that triggers her fear, whether it be people, other animals, or appliances such as the vacuum cleaner


We also recommend the booklet The Cautious Canine by Dr. Patricia McConnell.

Animal Behavior Associates - Helping Fido
4994 S. Independence Way
Littleton, CO 80123

Phone: 303-932-9095
Fax: 303-932-2298