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Teach Your Dog the "Hear That" Dog Noise Sensitivity Method | Pupford

December 29th, 2023

Filed under Training

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Many dogs exhibit fear or anxiety when exposed to loud or sudden noises. This noise sensitivity or phobia in dogs can lead to distressing behaviors such as trembling, hiding, or even destructive actions.

However, there is a method called the "Hear That" method that aims to desensitize dogs to these triggers and help them overcome their noise sensitivity.

In this article, we will explore the "Hear That" method, its basic principles, and how it can be effectively used to alleviate noise-related anxiety in dogs.


The "Hear That" method, as coined by Adrienne Farricelli CPDT-KA on Pethelpful, focuses on changing a dog's perception of feared sounds by associating them with positive experiences. This method utilizes the principles of classical conditioning, where the trigger noise becomes linked to high-value treats and positive affirmations.

By consistently pairing the sound with enjoyable stimuli, dogs can learn to shift their emotional response from fear to excitement or neutrality.

Central to the success of the "Hear That" method is a technique called counterconditioning. It aims to replace unwanted fear with positive emotions. The goal is to create new associations with the trigger sounds through rewards and reinforcement. It involves starting with a volume and intensity level of the noise that doesn't provoke fear and gradually increasing it as the dog becomes more comfortable and exhibits positive responses.

By employing the "Hear That" method and implementing counterconditioning, dogs can develop new positive associations with previously feared sounds. This leads to a change in their emotional state and a reduction in their sensitivity to those sounds.

Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are key to successful counterconditioning.

To provide you with more detailed guidance on applying this method to you and your pup, let's jump into a hypothetical scenario that can help illustrate how it will unfold:


dog scared of sound of vacuum

Imagine you have a dog who barks ferociously whenever he hears the sound of vacuum cleaners. You want to help him overcome his noise sensitivity using the "Hear That" method.

Here's how you can apply it to this scenario:

Step 1: Introduction and Observation

Start by introducing Rocky to the sound of a vacuum cleaner at a low volume. Keep a close eye on his behavior and observe his reactions. Note any signs of fear or anxiety, such as trembling, pacing, or hiding.

Tip: Explore Pupford's Dog Desensitization Sounds

Step 2: Positive Associations

Associate the sound of the vacuum cleaner with positive experiences for him. Whenever you play the vacuum cleaner sound, engage him in his favorite activities or offer him treats. This will help him associate the sound with positive emotions and rewards.

Step 3: Gradual Exposure

Gradually increase the volume of the vacuum cleaner sound over time. It's important to go at a pace that he is comfortable with. If he shows signs of distress, decrease the volume or take a step back. The key is gradually exposing him to the sound, allowing him to adjust and build confidence.

Step 4: Reinforcement and Rewards

Continue to reinforce positive associations with the vacuum cleaner sound. Whenever he remains calm and relaxed during the sound exposure, reward him with treats, praise, and affection. This will further reinforce his positive behavior.

Step 5: Real-Life Integration

Once he becomes comfortable with the sound of the vacuum cleaner at higher volumes, start using it during your regular cleaning routine. Keep the sessions short initially and gradually increase the duration. As he realizes that the sound is not a threat and is followed by positive experiences, his fear and anxiety will diminish.

Related: How To Reward Your Dog and a List of Reinforcements

Remember, the "Hear That" method can be applied to various noise sensitivity scenarios, including thunderstorms, traffic noises, fireworks, vacuum cleaners, construction sounds, sirens, doorbells, loud music, crowded environments, and other loud or sudden noises that may induce anxiety or fear in your dog.

The key is introducing the sound gradually, creating positive associations through rewards and activities, and consistently reinforcing calm and relaxed behavior.


person playing sounds on low volume on phone for dog

To re-create the sound of various trigger noises for the purpose of implementing the "Hear That" method, there are a few options available to dog parents.

  • Applications - One approach is to use smartphone applications specifically designed for generating sounds such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or vacuum cleaners. Check out our Dog Desensitization Sounds, here.
  • YouTube - Another option is to utilize online platforms like YouTube, where you can find a wide range of sound clips or videos that simulate different trigger noises. These platforms often provide convenient access to high-quality recordings that can be played for your dog.
  • Manual Recording - If you have the means and expertise, you can consider recording the actual trigger sounds in your environment. This can be done using a portable audio recorder or even a smartphone, ensuring that the recorded sounds accurately represent their sensitivity.
For a convenient and comprehensive collection of dog desensitization sounds, explore Pupford's Dog Desensitization Sounds, offering over 100 sounds specifically designed to aid in desensitization training.


wheaten terriers are sensitive to sound

If you're thinking about getting a dog and haven't had one before, or if you're interested in knowing if dogs of your breed are more sensitive to sounds, here's some useful information about breeds that are more prone to sound sensitivity.

A University of Helsinki study, the largest ever on canine temperament, found that lagotto Romagnolos, wheaten terriers, and mixed breed dogs were most prone to noise sensitivity, while Spanish water dogs, Shetland dogs, and mixed breeds exhibited the highest levels of fear.

Additionally, approximately one-tenth of miniature schnauzers displayed aggression and fearfulness towards strangers, contrasting with the lower incidence of these traits in Labrador retrievers. The study collected responses from over 13,700 dog parents worldwide, assessing anxiety-related behavior traits across 264 breeds and focusing on the 14 breeds with 200 or more surveyed dogs for reliable comparisons.

Related: 10 Best Dogs for First Time Dog Parents & Families

While scientific studies and research can provide valuable insights into examining trends, it's essential to remember that each dog is a unique individual. Therefore, it's important to prioritize understanding and addressing the specific needs of your own beloved puppy companion.


By associating trigger sounds with positive experiences, such as high-value treats and affirmations, dogs can change their perception and emotional response to these noises. While progress may vary for each dog, consistent application, positive reinforcement, and guidance from a professional behaviorist or trainer can lead to significant improvements.

Managing noise sensitivity is not a journey you have to undertake alone, and seeking assistance is encouraged. With love, patience, and the "Hear That" method, you can make a positive impact on your dog's life, helping them conquer their fears and enjoy a more peaceful and relaxed existence.

Explore Pupford Academy for guidance and skills training courses on topics ranging from barking solutions to impulse control games.


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