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My dog has an extreme fear of fire works and storms

This is a discussion on My dog has an extreme fear of fire works and storms within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Perhaps from my prior post of storm suggestions I did not describe Gracie's storm phobia, so it seems like hers was not as intense. But ...

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Old 05-26-2018, 04:05 PM
  #11
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Perhaps from my prior post of storm suggestions I did not describe Gracie's storm phobia, so it seems like hers was not as intense.

But it was! She was SO terrified.

Her storm stress symptoms:
1)Intense shaking
2)Major deep panting
3)Nonstop pacing
4) She would come "tell us" a storm was coming/here by pawing at us, but not wanting us to touch her.
5)She would bolt for the bathroom corner to hide.
6)She would not eat even her most favorite bones/chewies. (or anything, for that matter)
7)She would go from room to room not being able to sit still for a moment.
8)Could not follow any cues. Even the simplest ones.
9)Wanted comfort from us, but would not allow herself to take any comfort. If we tried to pet her we knew it would have been risky as she may have bitten us out of fear.
10)Would not get on bed with us as usual, only stay on floor shaking miserably
11) Stomach/bathroom issues would always follow
12) "Digging" at carpet --and she is never a digger of any sort normally
13) I could not get her to leave to go to car when it was even raining--some nights we would have to stay til past 11 pm in my shop til rain stopped. Sigh.



--We thought she was literally going to pass out from a heart attack from the stress overload. Or die from a blot clot from the heartworm treatment during storm season. I am totally serious when I say all this. Very scary for us and her.

And if that is not enough to convince anyone how terrified she was before I started my methods with her---one day in the beginning, a storm was a few hours away. (we watch the weather channel diligently on rain/storm days) I asked Gracie gently if she wanted to go outside to potty (before storm hit) and she lurched up at me as if to attack me. No bite... but VERY scary. She then immediately jumped in my lap as she would do when she wanted comfort. I was so shocked I cried.
She had episodes like this before from fear, but never had mere words ever caused a reaction like this. My point here--- she was so terrified of thunder and rain that the mention of going outside made her freak out even though nothing was going on outside yet. Dogs know in advance (barometric pressure changes) so that is when I start my methods instead of waiting until they are already over threshold.

My methods I described WORK. Gracie is living proof. It is called counter conditioning and desensitization and it is basically using science to change how the mind perceives a particular stimulus or scary situation.

It is NOT a quick fix and it IS time consuming. And you have to do it with much patience, kindness, and comfort. But it is a HELL of a lot better than watching my dog suffer!!
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Old 05-26-2018, 04:22 PM
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Many people who professionally study animal behavior say it is perfectly fine and good to comfort your fearful dog. How would you like to be told basically "suck it up" if you were afraid? That certainly does not help increase your bond with your dog. And no, it does not make them more fearful as some people may tell you.

I like to tell Gracie, I understand she is feeling afraid or uncomfortable, but that we are all good. No baby talk or coddling but I am big on offering her comfort when needed. I like to give her a nice massage (not just petting) when she is fearful now, if she wants it. If she wants to sit in my lap and just be close to me, awesome. I actually think it is great that she will accept comfort from me when frightened.

Also I would suggest looking up T-Touch massage. Many people recommended that I use it with Gracie. So I use my own version with Gracie all the time to help her since she is prone to anxiety of all kinds.
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Old 05-26-2018, 04:43 PM
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Thank you for the clarification. I was just looking at your offer for treats and things. There is no way my dog would eat anything while the fear is there. What you described is closer to what we see in Barney. My husband and I have had dogs all our lives and never have we seen any level of fear even close to what this dog suffers with. We got him as a young pup (about 2-3 months) from a pet store. He got very sick soon after we brought him home. Vet told us that he had not been cared for very well. We can't help but wonder if he was exposed to something very loud and painful before we got him. He is now 5 yrs. We have yet to find something that helps.



Did you have any problems in the beginning getting him to take treats? If so, how did you get him to that point?


Thank you again.
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Old 05-26-2018, 04:45 PM
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What helped me so much with Gracie was reading articles written by Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, CAAB who is an applied animal behaviorist who has been working with, studying, and writing about dogs for over twenty-five years.

Here are a couple of her posts about helping dogs with thunder fear:

You Can’t Reinforce Fear; Dogs and Thunderstorms

thunder phobia in dogs

She has a great website that can really give wonderful insight into (compassionately) helping fearful or stressed dogs. Sure taught me so much and it has really changed Gracie (and me) for the better!
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Old 05-26-2018, 05:12 PM
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Thank you for reading my posts and I do hope they can help you guys! It makes me very happy to know that you haven't given up on your dog and you are seeking help. So many folks give up or never even try--- and their poor dog stays in the same over stressed mental state for his/her entire life. So sad.

I had never had a dog with any storm/rain phobias (or really any phobias) and I've had dogs for over 25 years nonstop. Gracie came to us greatly afraid of so much. Honestly I had never even heard of fearful dogs before Gracie. Because I was so determined to help her overcome her fears and live a better life, I have studied and worked with her myself nonstop for the past three years to learn how to help her.

Many dogs have thunder phobia. And a zillion other phobias.

Some fearful/shy/cautious dogs are
a)genetically prone to be nervous or cautious or shy
b) some were undersocialized as pups
c)some had bad experiences
d) some were abused
e) some neglected
f) some are just uncomfortable(or afraid) of anything new or novel.
g)some have an associative fear, like maybe maybe a dog heard a loud bang sound while a bicycle went past. Bike didn't cause the sound but was there at the same moment. Hence dog becomes afraid of bikes and then you have to counter condition your dog to think bikes are wonderful and not scary.

I think my Gracie was a combo platter, but born that way to some extent. And she is super intelligent and hyper aware (blue heeler)which only increases her stress in some ways..but that is for another post.

Great (and easy to read) article on understanding dog fear here:
https://thebark.com/content/naturally-fearful-dogs

Naturally Fearful Dogs
Not all “scaredy” dogs have been mistreated.
By Karen B. London PhD,
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Old 05-26-2018, 05:21 PM
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Jabrock, could you please clarify who you are asking questions about taking treats in your post that starts with:
"Thank you for the clarification. I was just looking at your offer for treats and things"

A bit unclear since many people have shared here

Thx!
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Old 05-26-2018, 05:36 PM
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Like Rain mentioned about her dog's fear of thunder worsening, that is very common with fear. Most folks assume that over time the dog's fear will naturally subside... and love conquers all. I have read over and over again that this is simply not true in most cases.

Generally the fear and subsequent negative/destructive behaviors worsen over time if the dog doesn't get humane behavior modification to change the way it perceives the threat or fear. Generally classical or counter conditioning and desensitization (with or without the aid of meds) is what really helps a dog overcome his/her fear.

Our Gracie was returned to the shelter at least 4 times in three years before we adopted her. The last return date was Jan 1....hmmmm....we surmise she ran away/bolted in fear from fireworks from New Year's Eve festivities.

Storm/thunderworks fear is so dangerous and can make a dog do things to endanger themselves because they are so reactive. They are not thinking clearly except to protect themselves in their own mind. I could totally see a dog like Gracie jumping a 10 ft fence or jumping out of a 5 story window like I have read in other cases.
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Old 05-26-2018, 05:37 PM
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Like Rain mentioned about her dog's fear of thunder worsening, that is very common with fear. Most folks assume that over time the dog's fear will naturally subside... and love conquers all. I have read over and over again that this is simply not true in most cases.

Generally the fear and subsequent negative/destructive behaviors worsen over time if the dog doesn't get humane behavior modification to change the way it perceives the threat or fear. Generally classical or counter conditioning and desensitization (with or without the aid of meds) is what really helps a dog overcome his/her fear.

Our Gracie was returned to the shelter at least 4 times in three years before we adopted her. The last return date was Jan 1....hmmmm....we surmise she ran away/bolted in fear from fireworks from New Year's Eve festivities.

Storm/thunderworks fear is so dangerous and can make a dog do things to endanger themselves because they are so reactive. They are not thinking clearly except to protect themselves in their own mind. I could totally see a dog like Gracie jumping a 10 ft fence or jumping out of a 5 story window like I have read in other cases.
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Old 05-26-2018, 07:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jabrock View Post
That sounds a lot closer to what we are dealing with. Very hard to control. We have been told not to let him lean against us or pet him with a calming voice, but that is what seems to be what he wants, and it is what works best so far.


If you don't mind my asking, what meds are you using? He is on trazodone but that only seems to help him calm down after the event and it makes him very drowsy.
I've heard the ignore them completely, if you try and comfort them it just makes it worse, advice in the past and it's wrong. You cannot make fear worse by offering comfort, but it's been proven that it can get worse if we do nothing to try and help the dog. Jersey, while not as bad as Zody, was easier to work with then him because she'd come to me for comfort and wanted to be by me. I'd pet her, sweet talk her, let her stay by me, then play with my other dog to help show her that it was O.K., before petting and talking to her again. She got better. I just wish Zody was like that but his instinct is to hide, and if I mess with him too much then he'll change hiding places, he's a lot harder to work with and I have to lay on the floor and hand him treats. Still, he's very slowly doing better.

I give him Amitriptyline it was doing pretty good but this years thunderstorms got really bad this past month and it isn't working quite as well. I'm hoping now that we haven't been having as many storms it'll work better. In the past I've had him on Alprazolam (generic xanax) and while it controlled the anxiety a bit better then the current medicine it made Zody hyper, lowered his inhibitions, and gave him the munchies. Basically it was like he got high I ended up asking for something different for him LOL.
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Old 05-26-2018, 07:44 PM
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As per the vet who was treating Gracie for heartworms during thunder season (double fright situations) we tried different drugs on Gracie prior to her vet office visits. Again remember she was at risk of dying from a blot clot if her heart rate went too high--- and she was completely freaked out by the vet visits and the storms so I was desperate to find something that would calm her.

We tried a)Xanax, b) Benedryl, c)ACE -Acepromazine (A favorite of some vets, but please NEVER use ACE in these situations or at least research it first!!)
d) melatonin e) chamomile tea, e)pheromone spray stuff

The drugs made her way more heightened and fidgety and overall more nervous. The drive to the vets office with her drugged up on Xanax was a bit unsettling to say the least. The melatonin, tea, pheremones--no response either way.

But every dog is different and I have read some dogs do great with the combo of the appropriate meds and behavior modification like counter conditioning and desensitization.
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