It’s a sad sight when you see a dog traumatized by smoke detector beeps and chirps.
So be it, if it’s a little Chihuahua or Dachshund diving for cover into its owner’s lap.
However, when it’s a big pupper like a St Bernard or a Husky (like my own Max) cowering in the corner of the room, you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the big softie.
What is it about smoke detectors that make them such Kanine-Kryptonites?
For one, it has to be the sound. Not only are the alerts shrill, high-pitched, and piercing, many smoke detectors also gradually increase in volume too until they are mercifully turned off. That can’t be good for a dog’s hearing.
The unpredictability of the sudden siren must also be utterly terrifying for our poor pooches. One minute, they’re happily tussling around with their favorite toy- and the next?
*BEEP *BEEP *BEEP *BEEP *BEEP *BEEP *BEEP…!
It’d get on anyone’s nerves, really.
So, we know that the overwhelming percentage of dogs hate smoke detectors. But what can we do about it?
Well, there are actually a few effective solutions that we are going to take a look at in this article today. These include:
- Staying (and keeping your dog) calm
- Creating a safe environment
- Playing with or otherwise distracting your pup
- Pumping out classical music (You’ll want to read this one!)
- Making use of effective supplements or medications
- Swapping out old smoke detectors with dog-friendly models.
Without further ado, let’s get straight into it!
Smoke detectors make high-pitched sounds that many dogs find terrifying. Some (like my Max) even hide under the bed or table after just one tone, thinking the world is about to end.
Unlike humans who can put their hands on their ears to block out the noise, dogs have no choice but to endure the loud and obtrusive chirp.
So the big question is: Why does a smoke detector deep scare dogs?
According to experts on canine behavior, most dogs that are terrified by smoke detector sound suffer from a little something called noise phobia.
Noise phobia refers to an intense and irrational fear displayed by dogs to certain sounds.
At this point, it’s important to note that there is a difference between fear and phobia. Fear is a natural response to a perceived or real threat- such as being in fear from the anticipation of pain of a vaccination, as an example.
On the other hand, phobia is an irrational and exaggerated response to certain situations that can completely cripple a dog emotionally. Sometimes, fear can escalate to phobia. Dogs of all ages can develop noise phobia, but it is more prevalent in dogs above one year of age.
Veterinary behaviorists assert that the loud noises that smoke detectors make are frightening to a large percentage of dogs, and can as a result trigger phobia.
Most dogs associate the sound with danger. A lack of socialization is thought to be one of the main causes of noise phobia among dogs.
Dogs that have insufficient exposure to a variety of sounds, especially when they are still young, are more likely to be terrified of a smoke detector beep.
Additionally, dogs that have been through extremely frightening situations- like being neglected or abused- are also more likely to become frightened of sudden harsh noises and sounds.
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What should you do if your dog panics when a smoke detector beeps?
While there is no specific medication that can be given to a dog with noise phobia to stop it from being fearful of smoke detector beeps, there are a few effective things that you can do to help calm him down.
If a smoke detector goes off when the dog is around you, the best thing that you can do is to stay calm!
Dogs are extremely adept at reading our emotions and body language, and can easily detect when we become startled or scared. As pack animals, they also have a tendency to follow our lead- and as a result become frightened themselves!
Therefore, professional dog behaviorists recommend that an owner should stay as calm as possible in the event where a smoke detector alarm does suddenly go off.
If you are able to stay calm, your dog will also not take the noise as seriously as it potentially would if you instead showed obvious tenseness and discomfort. This will help to ensure that your pup is not needlessly agitated.
From a more practical perspective, it is more difficult to calm your dog and reassure it if you yourself are not coolheaded! So, in the best interests of yourself and your pooch: Keep calm and carry on!
It is almost impossible to predict when a smoke or fire alarm will ring. However, you can prepare your dog to deal with the noise in case it happens!
One of the best ways to help your dog deal with a noisy situation is by creating an environment of safety.
For instance, you can designate a safe place at home (such as a room, enveloped crate, or dog bed) just for your pup and teach it to go to its safe haven when the fire alarm rings.
A dog anxiety vest (otherwise known as a ThunderShirt) can also help to create a sense of security very effectively, while still allowing the dog to be mobile.
Another great way to calm your dog down when it is feeling distressed by smoke detector beeps is to play a fun game with him!
Playing your dog’s favorite game will help to distract from the loud scary noises that may otherwise be plaguing him.
If you have another dog (that isn’t scared of the chimes, obviously), try to get it to join in the fun as well! The more the merrier after all, and if the frightened pooch sees its peers having a blast it will also be more likely to forget its own troubles.
Make sure that you give out plenty of treats and rewards to your dog when it starts to focus on the game. At this point, you may find that your pup has forgotten all about the noise and is back to its normal self!
However, if you discover at any point that your dog does not get into or focus on the game, stop. If you insist on playing even when your dog is too distressed to pay attention, it may end up disliking the game in the future as well- courtesy of a little concept called conditioning.
Did you know that certain types of soothing music can help dogs to calm down and relax?
It’s true. A study conducted in 2002 showed that classical music– of all things!- helped dogs to relax. Canines that ‘tuned in on the tunes’, per se, were better rested, calmer, and spent less time standing up than those exposed to more normal, everyday sounds.
Just like with children and babies, classical music with a tempo of 50-60 beats-per-minute (BPM) apparently has an unique ability to relax dogs.
The best thing is that it doesn’t even have to be classical music! Reggae and soft rock can also fit the bill, as long as it’s in that 60 BPM range and doesn’t feature any loud percussive or deep base tones.
Some good options to help calm your dog down include:
- Eine kleine Nachtmusik KV. 525 – II. Romanze: Andante- Mozart
- Nocturne op.9 No.2- Chopin
- Rachmaninov piano concerto No.2 in C minor, Adagio- Rachmaninoff
- Gravity- John Mayer
- Perfect- Ed Sheeran
- Earned It- The Weeknd
If none of the above calming techniques work, it may be a good idea to take a more medicated approach.
When a dog’s anxiety is serious, there are a variety of medications and supplements that can be helpful. Some of these medications and supplements are administered regularly, while others are only given at the time of the panic attack.
One extremely effective, natural option that has gained in popularity over the recent years is hemp oil, such as this one from Pet Club Brothers.
Hemp oil not only provides a safe, soothing effect in only a few drops, but also has a whole host of other benefits such as:
- Supporting the immune system
- Improving skin and coat health
- Boosting muscle and joint integrity
If drops aren’t your (or your dog’s) thing, hemp oil also comes in chews for an easy, well-tolerated treat!
If over-the-counter supplements don’t work, a vet will always be able to prescribe a variety of anxiety medications (such as Xanax, Ativan, or Gabapentin) for your dog to help it become more relaxed in future instances of noise phobia.
Other popular medications that can also be prescribed by vets include fluoxetine, clomipramine, and Prozac. In some cases, the vet may recommend a combination of drugs.
If you decide to go this route, please don’t forget to ask your vet about the potential risks and side effects of the medication or supplement prescribed.
The recommendations given above are short-term solutions.
If you want to solve the problem once and for all, the best course of action would be to purchase a dog-friendly smoke detector.
Dog-friendly or ‘chirpless’ smoke detectors are specially designed to provide an alarm without scaring your four-legged friend.
These smoke detectors are low pitch, meaning they don’t generate a shrill, high-pitched sound as is the case with ordinary smoke detectors. However, the sound they do generate is still loud enough to alert you in case of smoke.
Nowadays, there are many purportedly dog-friendly smoke detectors on the market. However, many of them still emit a loud sound that many dogs will be sensitive to, so truly finding one that suits your needs can be a daunting task.
One option that I have found to be most suitable for my home is the Google Nest Protect Smoke Alarm (Yes, it’s from Google!).
It’s definitely one of the more expensive solutions, but its numerous features and innovations make it a worthy purchase for homes with pets in my very humble opinion.
Not only is it a smoke detector, it can also keep an eye on carbon monoxide levels as well. And if either small amounts of smoke or CO are detected, it alerts you in the coolest way:
Yes, instead of ringing out in the shrillest tones known to mankind, the Nest Protect simply informs you in a calm and professional manner that smoke has been detected.
Not only that, it also tells you where exactly the smoke is coming from– saving you a good bit of time and energy that otherwise would’ve been used to check all around the house.
Finally, being the WiFi-enabled piece of tech that it is, it’ll also send an alert straight to your phone! From there, you can check the system quickly and turn off the detector if it’s just a false alarm.
It goes without saying that the Nest Protect is a lifesaver for dogs’ ears, especially in homes where burnt toast and charred eggs are a daily occurrence.
Keep in mind that in true, full-out fire emergencies, the Nest Protect will still emit siren-like sounds- but at that point getting to safety should be the only priority, and a scared dog is the least of your worries!
At the end of the day, we recommend that you purchase a dog-friendly smoke detector from a reputable brand. Check the features of the smoke detector, and read customer reviews and ratings before you make your final decision!
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.