Are “Quiet Ears For Dogs” A Good Way To Stop The Barking?
If you’re a TikTok user, you’ve probably come across Myko, a dog who went viral when his owners found a unique solution to his non-stop barking: Quiet ears. While Myko’s quiet ears make him look like the beloved character Eeyore, quiet ears for dogs usually look like a hood or tight tube of fabric that holds the dog’s ears against their head.
When Myko wouldn’t stop barking, his humans tried everything and even consulted with dog trainers and veterinarians. Myko came to his forever home after experiencing trauma and was very fearful of loud noises. High anxiety would cause Myko to bark nonstop for minutes on end, often at small stimuli that most dogs could ignore. So, Myko’s pawrents tried an unconventional solution.
After slipping on his quiet ears for dogs (Eeyore-themed, of course) and giving him lots of praise and treats, Myko’s owners saw him calm down in just a few minutes. A smart dog, Myko quickly learned to associate his quiet ears with relaxing and getting lots of rewards, and his owners now regularly use this tool to help him manage his anxiety.
But, do quiet ears for dogs work all the time? Are they an appropriate tool for every dog? Are quiet ears something you should try to help your own dog manage their anxiety or reactivity?
Dog trainers and behaviorists say: No.
What Are Quiet Ears for Dogs?
If you’re casually researching quiet ears for dogs TikTok might have you convinced they are a catch-all tool for helping dogs to calm down and reduce anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Before we get into how to use quiet ears, let’s answer an important question: how do quiet ears work for dogs?
Quiet ears provide a layer of insulation between the dog’s ears and nearby noises and physically compress the dog’s ears to block out noise. Quiet ears don’t just compress the ears, however, they provide compression around the whole head, and sometimes down the neck. Some people compare this to the way thunder shirts work, but as we’ll discuss momentarily, this is not a fair comparison.
Quiet ears (sometimes called “happy hoodies”) are a tool developed to help protect dogs’ ears from loud noises and are most commonly used by dog groomers while they blow dry their canine clients. Other than this, there aren’t many proven uses for quiet ears, and in many cases, using this tool can actually increase your dog’s anxiety.
Do Quiet Ears Work for Dogs with Anxiety?
Dogs use all of their senses to understand the world but have a particularly acute sense of smell and superior hearing. A dog’s ears are crucial for understanding what is happening around them, staying safe, and feeling comfortable. Having their ears covered could be as uncomfortable as having their eyes covered. How would you feel if you were feeling afraid and someone insisted on putting a blindfold on you?
“It is important to understand that there is no quick fix or magic solution for dog reactivity [and anxiety],” says Rocky Kanaka, Pet Rescue Advocate in a recent article about how to calm reactive dogs. “It takes time, patience, consistency, and professional guidance to help your reactive dog overcome their fears or frustrations.”
Rather than working through your dog’s issues with them, using a tool like quiet ears to momentarily stop their barking likely won’t reinforce calmer behavior (or emotions) in the future. You may in fact introduce a new fear into your dog’s life, or make them feel even more out of control and unsafe than they already did.
If you look at photos of dogs wearing quiet ears, you might notice that many are whale-eyeing, licking their lips, or showing other calming signals to let their humans know they aren’t happy. Of course, some people might find that their dogs don’t mind wearing a hat, but that doesn’t mean it’s making them happy or emotionally regulated.
On the other hand, if quiet ears actually work for your dog then they may provide a temporary relief from the barking and for complaining neighbors. “One of my dogs would start barking out of control for any little thing,” said Lorna Paxton, pet parent to 4 small dogs. “When I used quiet ears, she would calm down and not hear everything outside and therefore she would remain calm,” she added.
For some desperate pet parents it’s the choice of using quiet ears or surrendering their dog, if too many neighbors are complaining. “it’s definitely not something to use all day everyday, but it provides some relief, for me, my anxious dog, and my annoyed neighbor.”
Techniques for Reducing Reactivity, Barking, & Anxiety in Dogs
So, if the best quiet ears for dogs are no quiet ears at all, what can you do if you have an excessive barker? Obviously, we won’t be teaching you how to make quiet ears for dogs, but we do have some advice from experts who work with reactive and anxious pups every day.
Learn To Read Canine Body Language
“Eagerness and excitement [like barking] may seem like positive traits, but the world of dogs operates under a different set of social rules,” says Alexis Rascon, an Animal Care Specialist from Animal Friends of the Valley, a shelter in Wildomar, California. “Understanding boundaries is crucial to preventing tension and potential conflicts.” This applies both to tension between dogs and between dogs and their humans.
As you get to know your dog, you’ll learn to identify when they are using their body language to show they are becoming hyper-alert or might be about to start a barking spree. Rather than trying to address the barking, addressing and honoring your dog’s body language can help them avoid reacting to the trigger altogether.
Redirect & Reward
You might never be able to fully desensitize your dog to their triggers, but you can change how they respond by working with them to redirect their attention. For example, if your dog barks when they see squirrels in the yard, try redirecting their energy and prey drive into a game of fetch. This gives them an appropriate outlet and is a great way to instantly reward a desired behavior—in this case, not barking at the squirrels.
If your dog is barking excessively due to anxiety, there are tried and tested tools for helping them manage stress without removing or limiting one of their senses. One of the more common reasons people use quiet ears is to help their dogs block out thunderstorms, but there are more effective methods that again, don’t involve taking away your dog’s hearing. Some examples of ways to reduce your dog’s anxiety during a thunderstorm include:
- Creating a quiet space. This could be done in a bathroom, a walk-in closet, or a small room without many windows. Make your dog a nice nest of blankets and pillows, or even offer them a chance to crawl under a bed or find somewhere cozy to wait out the storm. Hunkering down in a quiet space with your dog may also help ease their anxiety.
- Give your dog treats. Help your pup to start associating thunder with treats! Find something high-value (like jerky for dogs) and give your dog a morsel every time there is a thunderclap.
- Block out the thunder. Instead of blocking your dog’s ears, give them something else to listen to. Turn on a white noise machine, play music, turn on a fan, or even put on some TV for your dog.
- Talk to a vet. If your dog regularly suffers from anxiety and struggles to calm down even in everyday situations, it’s a good idea to talk to a vet. They may have behavioral or training recommendations or may be able to offer anti-anxiety aids or recommendations for CBD.
- Use calming treat. Treat your dog with a treat that has calming ingredients baked right in.
A Temporary Solution
If your dog barks non-stop and you are losing your mind and your neighbors are complaining, by all means, try quiet ears. They may provide a short term solution so you can regain your sanity and to get your neighbors off your back. Are they a long term solution? Of course not. Your dog can’t wear them 24/7. Use them as a band-aid as you work on some of the longer term solutions mentioned above.
Where to buy quiet ears for dogs?
You can find them on Amazon here but the issue is that most of the ones on Amazon really don’t do the trick. The material is too thin to block the noise in many cases. On the bright side, they are very affordable, about $10, so may be worth trying them first. If they don’t work move on to noise cancelling headphones for dogs.