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This is a discussion on Help within the Introductions forums, part of the DogForum Community Welcome category; Hi, I have an 8 year old 'Old English Sheepdog'. Because of a scare with fireworks a couple of months ago he now refuses to ...

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Old 11-02-2010, 06:51 PM
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Unhappy Help

Hi, I have an 8 year old 'Old English Sheepdog'. Because of a scare with fireworks a couple of months ago he now refuses to go out of the front door for a walk if it's dark. The only way I can get him out of the house is by putting him straight into the car. I have spoken to my vet who has prescribed Zelkin (calmer) but he has been on it nearly 3 weeks now and is making no difference at all. As he is such a large dog I need to overcome this so that he gets his quota of exercise. He even gets a bit funny when walking him in daylight if he hears a noise like a car door shutting etc., I am getting very desperate now and upset as I cannot bear to see him like this. I do not want to keep putting him in the car as I do not want to find myself in a position where he expects to go in the car every time he steps out the front door.
Any ideas greatly appreciated please.
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Old 11-02-2010, 08:29 PM
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Wow, this is a hard problem. How is he going potty? Do you have a back door? Can you take him out the back and then to the front to where ever you are going? He sounds like a candidate for counter conditioning therapy. Do you know anything about that type of training? There are some real experts here on this. The basic idea is you gradually work the dog with rewards. So for example in your situation you would use a clicker and treat system and reward for the dog going near the front door, then stepping to the threshold, then slightly out the door, etc.
Hopefully someone will post some better directions than this.

Can you tell us more about the traumatic incident?

Another thing to check, has your dog's thyroid level been checked? I believe hypothyroidism is reasonably common in middle aged OES dogs. Low thyroid levels often make fears worse. If he tests low, the treatment is very easy and effective. Many vets don't think of this unless the dog has the extreme symptoms of weight gain and lethargy. Hypersensitivity to fearful stimuli is an early symptom.

BTW, welcome to the forum!
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Old 11-02-2010, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tess View Post
He sounds like a candidate for counter conditioning therapy. Do you know anything about that type of training? There are some real experts here on this. The basic idea is you gradually work the dog with rewards. So for example in your situation you would use a clicker and treat system and reward for the dog going near the front door, then stepping to the threshold, then slightly out the door, etc.
That's pretty much how you would condition it. Click-treat a bunch for standing however far away from the door he needs to be while he's calm. If he's calm at that distance, get closer. Click-treat a bunch more for being calm. If he's calm with the door shut, open the door. Click-treat click-treat for being calm. Etc. etc. It could be a quick fix or take a few days/weeks, just make sure you're only click-treating for him below threshold (calm behavior). If he gets too worked up, go back a step.

As far as being scared outside, it's the same concept. Take the dog outside and click-treat for looking at different things/noises but not getting worked up. You don't actually need to go anywhere. I used to click-treat my rescue standing in my cul-de-sac for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending on who was around (if more people were around, we did more conditioning; less people, more actual walking).

Welcome and good luck. We do have experts on here, so I'm sure you'll get more feedback.

Last edited by seebrown; 11-02-2010 at 10:28 PM. Reason: bad grammarz
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