New Horizons Veterinary Behavior Solutions

300 Somonauk St.
Park Forest, IL 60466





A dog with an irrational or extreme fear such as noise phobia needs "psychological therapy" just like a person might need if they had  a mental illness. Since a dog cannot go through "talk therapy", Behavior Modification Therapy is using a "language" that a dog will understand. Behavior Modification Therapy will allow a dog to change his mind about scary storms or fireworks, help him realize that they are not dangerous, stop the fight or flight fear response, and release him from being so stressed out.

  • *Unfortunately there is no quick-fix pill. 
  • *Drugs by themselves, although beneficial, fail in the long term to completely resolve the anxiety because alone they do not teach the dog a new behavior or a new way to think about things.  
  • *For successful long term management the dog needs to change the fear response in his thoughts through positive behavior therapy. 
  • *Medications are still very important and are often needed at the same time and can really facilitate this learning process.
  • *Schedule an appointment with us and find out if medication is appropriate for your pet.
  • *Many anxious pets need to be on medication for a while BEFORE they are able to learn Behavior Modification Techniques. 

Key Point:  Meds and behavior modification need to go hand in hand!  To learn more about medication options click HERE


Key Point:  Behavior Modification IS NOT the same as Obedience Training!  The goal is achieving calm and relaxation, not obedience!

There are three basic methods to modify fearful behavior.  Our goal is to change the dog's emotional response from fear to something more positive.  We can do this by teaching: 


Relaxation Techniques

Counter Conditioning (CC) 

Desensitization (DS)


If this jargon seems confusing and overwhelming, schedule an appointment with us, we have many ways to help you and your dog learn how to do this! 

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES--Many people find if they are able to teach their dog relaxation techniques, further behavior modification is not even necessary so this is a great place to start. 

We need to first teach the dog to relax in a calm setting.  Begin by teaching on calm quiet days well in advance of the nosie events. 

We recommend teaching relaxation exercises with a technique called CLICKER TRAINING.  



SO WHAT IS CLICKER TRAINING?    It is a beautiful way to clearly communicate with your pet!

Clicker Training is EASY to do!
Clicker Training is EASY for your dog to understand!
But…it is also EASY to do wrong!


Learn from a Force Free Clicker Trainer to be sure you get it right!     

Choose a force free trainer trained by the KAREN PRYOR ACADEMY for Animal Behavior and Training.  Clicker training will be effective and easy to use once you learn and practice the basics with some guidance from a professional trainer!!


WHY IS CLICKER TRAINING SO IMPORTANT?  It is a powerful tool to reach the animal mind!

**It is much more powerful than words!    Saying it’s OK doesn’t show your dog HOW TO BE OK!!
**Clicker Training gives us a way to show a dog WHAT TO DO to feel safe
**It gives a dog the freedom of choice and teaches a dog how to make good choices!
**Giving a fearful dog freedom and control over choices is crucial to reducing anxiety.
**Think how people feel when trapped in an elevator and escape and choices are taken away!
**Clicker Training clearly communicates, is force free and anxiety free. 
**It allows the dog to choose behavior, it is not forced to do a behavior. 
**Clicker Training helps guide the dog to make the right choices! 
**No punishment is ever involved.

CLICKER TRAINING takes a dog out of the world of “NO” & into the wonderland of “YES”!

**It “marks” the desired behavior like a camera “snaps” a picture!
**The Click says, YES!! You got it right!
**It is also a promise…great things will always happen when you do that!
**The promise is a reward: food, play, toys, or praise!!!
**Dogs CHOOSE to repeat behaviors that are rewarded!

Now that we have a way of communicating with our dogs, let’s see if we can help them relax and chill out!!

1)  RELAX ON MAT:  Select a mat or rug for the dog to settle on. Place tasty treats on the mat to show the dog that good things will happen on the mat.  As the dog approaches the mat continue to place treats on the mat. If the dog settles on the mat with a relaxed body posture or expression, immediately give even more tasty food rewards.  


CLICKER TRAINING is a great teaching tool to utilize for relaxation exercises.  It bridges the communication gap between you and your dog. if you would like to learn the basics of clicker training to teach your dog to relax on a mat, come talk to us!

5 Steps to Train Your Dog to "Go to Place"   This information comes from Karen Pryor's website and teaches the technique to get your dog to lie down and be relaxed on an area such as a mat.  Remember teaching this skill must be done when the noise phobia is NOT happening.  Once your dog learns the mat is a safe place, you can use it to relax when the phobia is happening.

Relax On A Mat-Step by Step Handout  Fabulous handout that teaches you how to teach your dog to relax!  A Must Read!


Teaching a Dog to Relax on Cue  A video that shows you how to "clicker" or positively reward and train your dog to RELAX on a mat once he has learned to lie down. 

Once you have reliably trained your dog to lie down, teach your dog to stay relaxed on the mat and resting peacefully. Offer him a very special long lasting treat such as a stuffed food toy or Kong. Special rewards make the mat a very happy and rewarding place for your dog to visit. 

 2)  TAKING A DEEP BREATH--Another great relaxation technique you can teach with a clicker!

Protocol_for_teaching_your_dog_to_take_a_deep_breath_&_other_biofeedback_methods  Believe it or not you can really teach your dog to take a deep breath!  We all know how slowing down and taking a deep breath can help calm us!  Taking a deep breath will help change the body's physiology by slowing the heart rate and starting to turn off the adrenaline rush of the flight or fight response. This protocol will teach the steps necessary to train your dog to take a deep breath! VIDEO: Teaching A Dog To Self Calm By Taking A Deep Breath

Remember when you start training a dog to settle or relax, you are must do this without the fearful stimulus being present. 

Teach this on quiet days, and have your dog perform it over and over, rewarding generously each time until the dog goes willingly to his mat every time after a simple word cue. 

Over time your dog will look forward to going to the mat and will willing settle down there in anticipation of the special food treat or toy. You can also offer other rewards on the mat such as praise, a tummy rub or an ear scratch.


With counter conditioning we want to teach the dog that loud scary noises mean good things are about to happen! Again, w
e want to start this training PRIOR to the noisy event. Ideally this should be done in the winter months, or well before storm or fireworks season. 


Counter Conditioning is providing something really pleasurable during scary events.  This can be extra tasty food treats, or special toys and games, or just quiet close contact. 



Don’t coddle and reinforce your dog’s fear by telling him it’s OK (when he knows it’s not).

Instead SHOW him things are going to be great by spoiling him rotten with the best treats he has ever tasted! 

Don’t lie to him with words, convince him with treats!

Condition for a Positive Emotional Response!


You have to pay up! 

Would you put up with snakes, bumblebees and spiders for some chump change or some nickels and dimes?

Heck NO!!

But you might change your mindset about them if every time you saw one someone gave you a $100 bill


*Let’s say you have a terrible phobia of snakes!  Let’s say you are in a room and at the far end, someone drops down a snake from the ceiling!  OMG!! YIKES! 

*You are about to freak out but suddenly a $100 dollar bill is shoved into your hand. 

*But then the snake goes away, no more $100 bills appear

*But wait, the snake suddenly appears again and another $100 bill comes your way!

*And this keeps happening over and over and you have a fist full of Benjamins! 

*And then WOW, suddenly a $500 bill gets thrust in your hand! Jackpot Bonus!

*And that keeps happening!

*Suddenly you can’t wait to see that snake again!

*Bring that snake ON!! 

You have been counter conditioned to snakes!!  You love seeing snakes because they bring you $500 every time you see one!!  Whoopee!


  • Do you have what it takes to counter condition your dog to scary noises? 
  • You have to pay up with some spectacular treats. 
  • Don’t start out with nickels and dimes and some boring dry dog biscuit! 
  • Bring on the chicken, the steak, the crème cheese! 
  • Figure out what is your dog’s currency and pay up well when you want to counter condition!! 
  • Treats should be plentiful but tiny about the size of a pea!  This allows you to give many rewards without too many calories!
  • If your dog has special dietary needs, check with your vet.  Consider low fat options like non-fat plain yogurt, low fat crème cheese.  Use your dog’s own dog kibble meal with something like baby food, or a tad of low fat peanut butter and shove it in a Kong.   But it has to be something really tasty!!


This example, using steak to counter conditioning a dog to a vacuum, illustrates the point of counter conditioning further!!

Click on this link to learn The Magic of Chew Toys & Food Toys.  This webpage will teach you how to stuff a delicious Kong toy to keep your pet relaxed and happy during stressful events.  Kongs are great for enjoying in your dog's save haven or storm fort.

Once your dog has mastered these exercises, you are ready to try them during a noise event. If the dog follows your cue to settle on the mat in the presence of the noise, generously offer the food reward.  Look for a happy, or at least a relaxed, facial expression or posture from the dog before rewarding with the treat or affection.

Along with teaching the dog relaxation techniques, TRY TEACHING YOUR DOG TO FOCUS ON YOU on cue. When the focus is on you, your dog will tend to forget about the noise. Again this is taught away from the stressful stimulus at the beginning.  Use a super delectable food treat. 



Get you dog's attention, ask him to "look at me", "watch me" or "focus" and hold the food treat up to YOUR eyes.  Encourage the dog to look at you and the treat.  When your dog focuses on the treat and your face, immediately reward him.  Once you have your dog's focus, you can gradually ask him to hold focus longer, or to do a trick, or play a game. In this manner your dog "looks to you for guidance"  on what to do when things are scary and you can direct him to an appropriate fun behavior and away from fear! 



Once your dog has mastered this, you can start having your dog focus on you in the presence of the noise stimulus.  When the dog ignores his environment and the noise, and focuses on you, reward with a tasty food treat, praise, or play a favorite game. 



Throw your dog a party during storm times!  If you have mastered getting your dog to be really relaxed and focused during a noise event, the next step is to do something fun and entertaining, throw your dog a party!  Use relaxed but happy voice tones, play games, and offer lots of really special party treats.  Some dogs may not be ready for this and just want to remain settled.  Try to read your dog and see what works best for him.



Teach your dog to anticipate that storm time is party time, not scary time! This is a great technique to  teach young puppies BEFORE they become fearful of noises. Dr. Marty Becker suggests that "With every crack of thunder, respond, "Whoopee! That was a fun one! Here's your storm cookie!" Couple this with happy requests for simple obedience commands your dog knows well, such as sit."  Reward with super tasty treats and celebrate!



To desensitize to loud or scary noises, we can use audio recordings at very low volumes and slowly increase the noise over time.  This technique is most ideal for prevention in young puppies (8-12 wks old) to prevent the development of noise phobia, or in mild cases.  This method may not be ideal or effective, or possibly even harmful if a dog already has extreme phobia. 



Once you have the "settle on the mat" exercise down, you can play a CD with storm or fireworks noise at an extremely low volume.  Start so low the dog shows no response.  As long as the dog is not showing any signs of anxiety, reward with play, tummy massages, and treats. Very gradually turn the volume up, if the dog remains relaxed continue the rewards.  It is important to understand that this method may take many days to weeks of practice to succeed. Desensitization should take place and be completed BEFORE the season starts, not during storm season!




How to Desensitize to Storm Noises In this video example, Victoria Stillwell demonstrates how to use Sound CD to desensitize dogs to the sounds of storms and fireworks.  She begins by using soothing music therapy and massage to teach the dog to relax and then gradually introduces the noise while continuing the music and massage.  A nice "How to" Example!

If the dog is becoming anxious, it tells you that you are increasing the volume too quickly. Go back to a lower volume that does not antagonize the dog and start over again and increase the volume more slowly.  In the ideal situation, desensitization should be started in the off season, when sudden loud storms or fireworks will not come up quickly, before desensitization has a chance to be successful.


Thunderstorm and noise CDs for desensitization training can be purchased at the internet sites listed below.  


  • Victoria Stillwell's Noise PhobiaTraining CD Set  In conjunction with the founders of the acclaimed Through A Dog's Ear canine music series, Victoria has developed a groundbreaking new treatment for several commonly-found triggers of canine anxiety, including Thunderstorms, Fireworks and City Sounds. A 4th CD, Calming, is a powerful tool which can be used to reduce the stresses suffered by anxious and noise-sensitive dogs. Watch Victoria's Video on How to Use Her CDs!

  •  Legacy Canine Behavior CDs  This website sells a collection of CDs to desensitize dogs to a variety of sounds like storms and fireworks, vacuums, guns, and babies.

  • Soundtherapy4pets This is United Kingdom website, but you can credit card order the "Sounds Scary"   Desensitization CD training program on the website for US Shipping.

  • Helping Behavior  Helping Fido has a variety CDs specially created for use with noise sensitive dogs. These include recorded noises of Thunderstorms, but they also have CDs for fireworks, guns, car trips, children, cars and trucks, kitchens and vacuums, and flight.  They also have detailed lesson plans on how to properly do desensitization and counter conditioning.

  • Dogs and This British website is full of free helpful advice on fireworks phobia including a downloadable MP3 Video with sounds and  instructions on how to desensitize your dog to firework noises.

For Other Methods of Treating Noise Phobias, Click the Links Below

Environmental Management

ADAPTIL OR DAP Pheromone Therapy

Body Wraps and Capes 


Natural or Herbal Therapies