Dog Forum banner

1 - 7 of 7 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
166 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hello! My little guy just turned two this year and ever since the 4th of July he's been terrified of any loud noise. The blender, pots clanging, a door slamming shut, even papers rustling. The vet told us it could be because he's turned two and sometimes that happens to dogs, we just find it soo weird. He was really never scared of anything before 4th of July. Last year we brought him with us to see the fireworks, it didn't bother him one bit, he actually slept through them. This year we left him at home and when we came back he was panting, had peed in the laundry room and had thrown up in several places. Now whenever he hears anything slightly loud his tail goes in between his legs and he comes running straight towards me and hides behind my legs. He shakes and pants and acts like its the end of the world. He's become so stressed out its affecting his health and I have no idea how to fix it. I don't give him any attention when he's like this because I know it will just reinforce the behavior and make him think if he's scared it's ok because I'll just give him attention. I do let him hide behind my legs though, I don't want him to feel like he's alone when he's so scared. It's just so confusing. We've gotten him a thunder shirt, calming spray, a white noise maker for storms and a calming liquid that works ok. We've also gotten a sedative from the vet for when we know something is gonna bother him, like severe thunderstorms or a day filled with cooking. I don't want him to be frightened of everything for the rest of his life, any advice, please!!??
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,906 Posts
A lot of people claim that you can reinforce fear, but that's actually not true. Calmly stroking your dog and saying "it's okay..." won't make him think he should be afraid; in fact, it makes you seem like you are very aware of the situation and are there to protect him.

The only way your response can make the situation worse is if you make a scene yourself. It's kind of hard to explain this, but my vet did a decent job once - she said she'd have dogs on her table that were afraid, and the owners would stand right next to their dog and in a high-pitched, excited voice say things like "you'll be fine, it's okay baby, etc." This makes the dog think that you, too, are worked up and that maybe there's something to be worked up about.

IMO, it comes down to tone of voice - calm, confident reassurance won't hurt; frenzied cooing is probably not helpful anyway and may be harmful as well.

That said, have you ever given him a safe way to explore his fears? Don't force him, and have lots of rewarding treats handy, but I've found with my reactive boy that being able to check certain scary things out has made them less scary over time.

An example for my guy is boxes that come via UPS - they are new and smell funny, so they scare him. But over time I've just been sitting the box on the floor and interacting with it myself; once he sees me messing with it, he becomes more sure that it's not as bad as he thought. When he looks at the box, I give him a treat. If he approaches (on his own), more treats. As he sniffs the box, again, treats. He's able to gather information at his own pace, and it's rewarding for him; over time, those boxes have become very boring to him and he just gives them a quick sniff and moves on.

If it gets really bad, you may want to consider a trainer or a behaviorist to help you out.

Good luck - I know how frustrating fear can be; it's hard to see things from their point of view and we want them to feel better and safe. It will come :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
316 Posts
From what I've read, your vet is correct that 2-4 years of age is when a lot of dogs develop noise phobias. Sometimes it's gradual, sometimes it is in response to one traumatic event, but either way, it's a serious concern. Poor little guy.

You don't have to be worried about reinforcing his fear by providing him with attention, petting, or comfort. You cannot reinforce fear by comforting a scared dog (or person, for that matter). If you want to read more about that, you can here or here or here.

For me, any kind of fear that is generalizing (that keeps expanding to new situations and triggers) is a really, really good reason to consult with a good professional trainer or behavior specialist, and with a vet. I'm so glad to hear you've already talked to your vet and have calming aids to help! Since you didn't specify the medication used, I'll throw in this caution about not using acepromazine for fearful dogs, just in case.

Dr. McConnell wrote a follow-up to the post I linked to above that has some suggestions for treating noise-related fears: thunder phobia in dogs. I also like John Visconti's "Bunker Protocol" for helping his severely thunder-phobic dog: http://risingstardogtraining.com/reppep213/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Bunker.pdf
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
501 Posts
Pax is almost two and I am starting to see fears develop where he was invincible or didn't care before...so dog's behaviors do change.

My Mom's dog who is now 10 was absolutely fine every fourth of July but all of the sudden was cowering in the closet last year. No idea what brought that on.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
166 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
We had some severe thunderstorms tonight so we put the thunder shirt on him and gave him lots of calming pats. He seemed to like that a lot and actually calmed own a little sitting in my lap! thanks for the advice guys! he's going back to the Vet on Monday for his eyes so I'll ask if there's anything else we can do for him
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
455 Posts
Glad you comforted him last night, I was going to say that -- you absolutely should comfort him, it will not reinforce the behaviour but will only make him feel better.
It could have been the fireworks that in part triggered it, but it could very well be he was predisposed to developing a phobia and developed it at this point in his life as that's around the time when these things usually develop. Unfortunately anxiety medications are not really indicated for this type of trigger based anxiety, so I don't think that's an option.
Could you try very slowly counter conditioning him to noises? Starting out w/ something that just barely unsettles him and once he's alright w/ that slowly moving on to louder noises? Or do you think that wouldn't work as it would have to be done for each individual thing that makes a noise and wouldn't carry over to all noises? It may be worth a try anyway.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
166 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
I've already tried that, sadly it didn't work. I tried to play the sounds of thunderstorms and fireworks but quietly instead of the loud ones he hears, he was alright with that but as soon as I turned the volume up even a little, he gets very upset. A few days before the fourth of July he had a very bad ear infection and his ears were very sensitive. We've got an appointment with the vet today and they'll take a good look into his ears to make sure there isn't anything there. Other than that I think just comforting him will be all I can do.
 
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
Top