As dog owners, we love our dogs. When they act scared and afraid, unlike their normal behavior, we need to understand why. Dog owners, who want answers to their concerns about why their dogs might have a fearful or crazy response to coughing, read on.
Why are dogs scared of coughing?
Dogs are scared of coughing because they think it is a sound of aggression. If the onset of fear is sudden, it may indicate a health problem, and a vet visit is recommended. It is important to desensitize dogs to coughing to prevent fearful or stressed behaviors.
Why Is My Dog Very Frightened ‘freaked Out’ By Coughing And The Sound Of Throat Clearing?
Dogs have excellent hearing. They can hear sounds that we mere humans can only dream of hearing. When we talk to our dogs, they not only listen to what we are saying but also how we say it.
In other words, dogs can be good at detecting and understanding the emotion in their owner’s voice.
When humans cough, the sound tends to be sudden, harsh, and loud. Sudden loud noises can be scary for people, and they can be scary for dogs too.
Dogs spend their days trying to understand and interpret the sounds that come out of their humans’ mouths. When a dog hears a sudden, loud, harsh sound, they may interpret that as a sound of aggression, similar to a bark or growl. Some dogs, when they hear that, may react fearfully.
Why is my old dog afraid of coughing and sneezing?
As our dogs get older, sometimes their senses start to fail. Dogs that could hear exceptionally well in their youth, gradually lose their sense of hearing as they age. As a result of that hearing loss, sudden, loud noises can be startling and even scary to our older companions.
Dogs with hearing loss may already feel fearful and vulnerable.
Sudden loud noises like those produced by coughing or sneezing may sound scary when most of the other noises are too small to hear anymore. This can be very stressful for old dogs.
Why does my dog come running when I cough?
Dogs love their owners unconditionally. Their whole world is focused on their person and they are always paying attention to what their owners are doing.
Dogs are protective of their owners and sounds of aggression could mean that their owner needs help.
Dogs may interpret a cough as a sign of aggression so when they hear that noise, they may be concerned for their owner and immediately run to check on them.
Why does my dog shake when my other dog coughs?
Sometimes, dogs in a household do not share equal status. One dog may be more dominant than another. As a result, any sound of potential aggression, like a cough, from a more dominant dog in the household could be interpreted as aggression.
Shaking in this situation could be interpreted as a sign of fearfulness or submission. If shaking occurs at other times as well, a visit to the vet may be necessary because it could be a sign of health problems.
How to comfort & train (counter condition / desensitize) a dog that gets upset when I cough?
The ways to desensitize a dog from being fearful of coughing are straightforward, but require consistency to make it work.
- Give your dog a treat every time you cough so they associate something good with a scary noise.
- Record your coughing and replay it for your dog while doing something fun such as playing.
- If the house is normally silent, maintain some level of ambient noise so that sudden, loud noises aren’t so startling.
As long as owners consistently work to desensitize their dogs from being afraid of coughing, they should see an improvement in their dog’s behavior over time.
What not to do with a dog who is afraid of coughing?
If your dog is afraid of coughing, try to avoid two things so the situation does not get worse.
- Do not yell at or be angry with a dog after coughing. Respond to the dog with a calm, normal voice. Remember, they hear our emotions in what we are saying.
- Do not encourage the dog to associate coughing with negative experiences.
Try to ensure that the dog only has positive experiences when you are coughing, so always keep a dog treat nearby.
Should you comfort a dog scared of coughing?
Dogs are part of our human families. Just as a parent would comfort and reassure a scared child, dogs also need to be comforted and reassured.
Because dogs may interpret coughing as a sign of aggression, it is important to make sure they understand that their human is not angry when they make that coughing sound. We do not want our dogs to be stressed because stress can eventually lead to bad behaviors and poor health.
What exactly about coughing is my dog scared of?
When humans cough, the sound made by the vocal cords is loud and harsh. That loud and harsh sound can easily be mistaken by dogs as a sound of aggression.
Many humans do not usually make sudden, loud, aggressive sounds. As a result, when they do make those noises, it could be frightening to dogs. Their fear may be an outward sign of their submissiveness to their owner.
Why is my puppy terrified of coughing?
Puppies are young, small, and may act submissive until they grow to their full size. Every experience is new for them and sudden loud noises may be scary.
Instinctually, puppies may respond in fear to any loud aggressive noise like a cough. If your puppy does not seem to be growing out of their fear as they grow in size, steps should be taken to desensitize the puppy to the sound of coughing.
Why is my old dog suddenly afraid of coughing?
A pet owner whose old dog has suddenly started being afraid of coughing should take their dog to the vet to be evaluated for problems that might be causing a sudden hearing loss. Some hearing loss problems, if treated, could be reversed.
Old dogs that lose their hearing rapidly due to some irreversible trauma, such as damage caused by loud gunfire, may have a period of adjustment. Any sudden loud noises like a cough may cause the dog to be afraid whereas, before the hearing loss, the dog was fine.
Why is my dog getting an increasingly severe fear of coughing?
Pet owners who do not take care to desensitize or condition their dog to be less afraid of coughing may cause their dog’s fear to increase. Over time, if an owner continues to allow their dog to associate coughing with something negative, that dog may become more and more afraid.
Increasing fear of coughing may cause dogs to react by biting or lashing out in some way.
It is very important to condition scared dogs to be less afraid of coughing and not allow that fear to persist or increase.
Is MY coughing dangerous to dogs?
Human coughing is generally not dangerous to their dogs. Few human diseases are transmitted to dogs. Even fewer of those transmittable diseases cause any real problems for dogs.
The one exception to the rule is tuberculosis. Humans with tuberculosis can transmit that disease to their dogs. Dogs who contract tuberculosis from their owners may exhibit weight loss, vomiting, and coughing.
- King, Trish. Ask the Vet: Other dog’s coughing suddenly scary. SFGate, Feb. 11, 2014. https://www.sfgate.com/pets/askthevet/article/Other-dog-s-coughing-suddenly-scary-5225709.php
- McCormick, Beth, Au.D. Fido can hear you, but is he really listening? Starkey, Nov. 1, 2017. https://www.starkey.com/blog/articles/2017/11/Can-my-dog-understand-me
- Seladi-Schulman, Jill, , Ph.D. Can dogs get sick from humans? Healthline, July 28, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/can-dogs-get-sick-from-humans
- Strain, George, Ph.D. Deafness in Dogs. MSD Veterinary Manual, June 2018. https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/ear-disorders-of-dogs/deafness-in-dogs