Sound sensitivity and reactivity towards certain noises can occur in combination with reactions to visual triggers, or as a stand-alone issue.
Sound sensitivity is actually not a bad type of reactivity to have as we have so many options for regulating its intensity while we are training. Volume can be modified fantastically with today’s recording devices (like phones or tablets).
If your dog shows reactivity to a combination of auditory and visual trigger, you should ideally first work on the sound only at home. This is often seen in dogs that are scared of and reactive towards traffic:
In order to work on sound sensitivity, you use exactly the method shown in the lesson on Practicing Counterconditioning.
You can either take a direct recording of the sound that sets your dog off, or you can find a generic one on YouTube (there are videos of truly anything and everything on YouTube).
Start at a very low volume. It can even be the lowest volume setting that your phone has. Play the sound. Deliver treats. It is exactly the same process as you have seen in the earlier lesson.
Your dog should be aware of the sound but not so stressed that he cannot eat.
Over time, increase the volume until your dog can listen to the sounds at maximum volume while linking them with his treats.
Dogs with sound sensitivities usually live in quiet households. The more busy the household is, the more kids, noise, music, TV … is heard in the house, the less likely sound sensitivity is to develop. This is just due to the amount of exposure the dog gets to noise.
The good news is that you can improve your dog’s sound sensitivity a lot by making your house a bit “noisier”. Music alone usually is not enough as it is a very specific type of sound that dogs are unlikely to react to in the first place.
Again, YouTube is your friend – you can find many videos of “everyday noises” there (vacuum cleaners, sirens, fireworks, crowds, traffic, other dogs barking, …). Play them for just 15-30 minutes daily, ideally while your dog is already doing something fun such as eating or playing. Start at a low volume and work your way up to high volumes.