Have you ever found yourself jumping in fear at the sound of a sudden, loud noise? This is known as the startle reflex - a defense mechanism that helps protect us from potential threats in our environment. It's a common experience that we can all relate to - including our dogs. Except... a dog’s hearing is significantly better than a human’s, which makes “startle” an understatement.
Dogs have acute hearing abilities, surpassing humans in detecting sounds at higher frequencies and lower volumes. Consequently, they may experience more pronounced fear responses to loud noises, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, household appliances or motorbikes.
What is sound desensitization and why is it important?
Sound desensitization is the process of reducing sensitivity to specific sounds or loud noises. The goal is to gradually expose your sound-sensitive dog to the sounds they find distressing, helping them to become more tolerant and less reactive over time.
Many dogs are deeply affected by loud noises - especially those who haven’t gradually been exposed to any as growing up, or who have already been through traumatic experiences.
When exposed to loud noises, dogs can display signs of distress, including trembling, pacing, excessive barking, panting, hiding or seeking comfort from their owners. Some dogs may become destructive or exhibit other unusual behaviors as a result of their fear.
In order to decrease the risk of sound anxiety, it’s important for dogs to get exposed to different sounds of different intensities, from an early age. If you have adopted an already sound-sensitive dog, you might be thinking “too late…”. But it’s not! You can still start working on sound desensitization training.
How can I help my dog with sound desensitization program?
Step one: Find the right motivation. It’s essential to make sure that your dog can find comfort in things he or she finds most valuable: treats, toys, your attention - or all together. The heavier the burden, the higher the reward.
Food is one of the biggest motivators for dogs, which is why it’s used as leverage during training, or whenever we, as humans, want to teach a desired behavior. Sound desensitization training is no exception.
Step two: Consistency is key. Although the process is lengthy and difficult, the concept is pretty simple: play the sounds your dog is scared of, while slowly increasing the volume. Reward them with high-value treats every time you don’t see a reaction. If your dog becomes anxious during the process, that’s your sign to take a few steps back and keep working on lower volumes.
Go Dogo has a built-in sound desensitization program
Together with dog experts from Copenhagen University, we are developing a program that can help you and your dog overcome sound-sensitivity, starting with the number one issue: Fireworks. Using treats and computer vision, Go Dogo will slowly teach your dog that scary noises aren’t necessarily scary at all.
So how does it work?
Go Dogo has 2 cameras and uses computer vision to detect your dog’s position in the PlayZone. It is connected to your TV and releases a treat every time a challenge is successfully completed.
For sound desensitization training, Go Dogo uses the same concept. First your dog will learn that getting a treat has something to do with what’s coming out of the TV - both visually and auditory. In the beginning the sound will be almost impossible to hear, and it will gradually increase in an almost unnoticeable manner, over weeks of training a couple of times every day.
We recommend that you start sound desensitization training with Go Dogo only after your pup is already hooked to the rest of the games it provides. (S)he will learn that Go Dogo is fun and nothing close to scary, which will make the process easier.
The sound desensitization program will be available soon for all our Standard and Premium Go Dogo Members. You can read more about the membership plans here.