Fear of Noises

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by harry8, Oct 12, 2008.

  1. harry8 New Member

    Hi there,

    I have a two year old alsation cross lurcher who has showed some really concerning behaviour in the last few weeks. He's never liked fireworks, thunder etc but it seems to be getting out of control. He hates every noise especially when we're out walking which means we can't go to our local woods. There have been quite a lot of bangs and it's got to the point where he doesn't want to go out. Even taking him out for a street walk is a challenge as he just sits there and won't budge. He looks so terrified and it hurts me to see him have so much fear. He used to love walking off lead and it's a shame we can no longer do this.

    I've just bought a desensitization CD which has a large variety of tracks on fireworks, guns, cars etc etc and i've been doing this for the last couple of days. It seems to be going well so far however, does anyone have any advice on how I deal with the situaton outside of the house? If i take him off the lead when out walking he will run home and i wouldn't want to risk that as he could get hurt by a car.

    Does anyone have a similar problem or any advice?



  2. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    The desensitization CD was a great first step. Remember to initially use this at a low volume, then slowly increase it as he relaxes. You can try slowly increasing the distance you walk. For instance, you could take him to your yard and have TONS of fun playing even for just a few minutes. You could even plug in a CD player outside and play your desensitization CD while the two of you are romping in the yard. From here, you could take him a few steps or a block further(whichever he is still comfortable with), and play some more. Make a huge deal about how amazing the outside world is. Do some training so he is getting food rewards as well. Keep working here until he is totally relaxed. Go another few steps or a block further(or if you are headed to the woods, go a little closer or a little further in) and repeat. Keep doing this in small increments and ONLY move further when is completely relaxed. This means give him a few days or even a week until he is consistently happy in this environment. Then and only then should you move forward. It will be slow going, but it will help him. The desensitization CD will be a wonderful introductory to help him adjust to the sounds.

    Also, when does he start getting anxious? Is it as soon as you head for the door? As soon as you get the leash? As soon as you clip the leash on? Once you open the door? Do these things randomly rather than just when you're about to go for a walk. Do them right before play or training so he begins to associate these things with fun.
    Good luck and be patient!! Hope this helps.
  3. starbuck New Member

    In addition to what cowgirl said, Use the storms and loud noises as a training tool. Every time he hears thunder, give him a treat. Learn his body language when he's relaxed or when he's nervous and Reward him while he's relaxed and not anxious.

    My dogs are afraid of loud noises also. They will hide in their kennels or the smaller one under the bed, and the morning after a thunderstorm or fireworks it's hard to get them to go outside at all.
  4. harry8 New Member

    Thanks for your advice, Cowgirl and Starbuck. We'll definitely give it a go. As you say, they will only be small steps at first but if he starts to relax then great!

  5. snooks Experienced Member

    desensitizing to storms and noise is notoriously hard to do in some cases. I have a reactive dog that had a hard time after several traumas this last year. I spent the last year retraining her and positively associating. hopefully the sound cd's will help but alone they may not. i consulted to certified applied animal behaviorists and came up with a game plan. if she reacts i call her or go get her and we have a fun, happy mini obedience lesson. she loves rally and agility so this is right up her alley. we have treats and fun and do this long enough that she forgets what she was reacting to. this can take 3-5 minutes. a simple come sit doesn't do it. she'll turn right back around and go back to growl or bark at whatever set her off. she remembers it for a while. you have to outlast that memory.

    if training doesn't work alone consult a vet that has experience with drugs to help. I stress the experience part here. there are SSRI drugs like prozac with low side effects and that do help. they don't help WITHOUT the training though, it's a dual approach. you may also need to monitor liver function with blood tests periodically.

    so consider an ABS certified applied animal behaviorist or a veterinary behaviorist first and come up with a plan using professional help. consider the drugs if you still have no luck.

  6. harry8 New Member

    Thanks Snooks.

    Harry has improved although he still has his moments. The CD worked well and we're not hearing fireworks anymore (glad that's over!).

  7. shaktishiloh Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure how things are going for you and I just found your post and thought I'd share some info. I have experience with desensitizing and rehabilitating a dog (it was a shelter dog) with a HORRIBLE thunder phobia (PROBABLY she had some hard time during Hurricane Katrina...nobody knows for sure). She was so scared of thunder that she'd actually physically hurt herself by jumping out of a shelter kennel which is at least 6 ft high. She'd break her nails and dewclaws. People working at the shelter didn't know what to do with her and it was a hurricane season here in FL. Then I took her to foster, rehabilitate and train her and one of the main issues was of course desensitizing her and teaching her how to relax during storms (which are very common here in FL especially during the rainy season).
    The whole story ended with a very happy ending that you can see on a movie I made. This dog found a forever home and is very loved. :) "And her and her new family lived happily ever after" :dogbiggrin:

    Here's a movie from the time when I was rehabilitating and training her:

    She progressed very nicely and experienced a lot of real storms and even Hurricane Faye while she was staying with me acting pretty much like in a movie. :dogsmile:
  8. CollieMan Experienced Member

    Sorry, I'm also late to this thread. I can't offer a solution as such but I can offer my own experience of the same issue.

    During the last week of October, my own dog, Ellie, was so scared of noises that when she once heard a shotgun in one of the distant fields as she was being walked, she literally ran over a mile to get home, leaving my partner to try and run after her! Today, she can hear those sounds and not bat an eyelid.

    Once I realised it was an issue, I walked her all the more through those fields each day on leash. If she heard a sound and got spooked, then I knelt on the floor and let her 'cuddle' into me if she needed. But, and I have to stress this, I never encouraged her to do so. I believe, very strongly, that you can make such matters worse by encouraging the dog to be more scared. So, in essence, I was shelter and security of she felt it helped her, but it wasn't my place to teach her to run to me. Once I could see that she was settled, I would just say something like 'that's the way' and begin walking again.

    Shortly after that came evenings of random fireworks as people were purchasing rhem ready for Guy Fawkes night. For the first few nights, she was terrible. She hid upstairs and we never saw her all night. After a few evenings she ventured downstairs and practically leapt onto the sofa where I was if she heard a bang. Again, I was careful to allow this and act as shelter and security, but without speaking to her or encouraging her fear.

    By the time fireworks night actually came she was happy to stay downstairs and lay on the floor at my feet as opposed to needing to jump up on me. Today, she barely reacts to sounds of gunfire in the distance and I have no concerns about her running scared from them again.

    All that said, I also home-boarded one of my regular client dogs over fireworks night. She had the most extreme reaction I've ever witnessed. Even when her owners collected her the next evening, she would not budge and had to be lifted from our home into the car. I was told that she would be unlikely to then go outside at night for weeks as a result of her fear. Even when I walked her during the day after fireworks night, we got so far and then she just sat and would not budge at all. I had to turn and go home.

    I do know that, in that case, one of the owners had historically tried to 'comfort' the dog when it had the adverse reactions. I do believe that is a failing on the part of many of us. We try too hard to help and make it worse by punctuating in the dog's mind that there is a major issue.

    I think the key is offering protection for them without encouraging them. It's a tough balance but one that I think needs to be struck.

    I've never used a CD and so I have no idea of its effectiveness but I hope that it works for you, even if it's just a little.
  9. harry8 New Member

    Hi all

    Since my post on Harry's fear of noises it has unforunately got worse. I never comforted him when he was scared - it's just been bad timing that Harry hears noises - from shot guns to motorbikes - when ever he is out for a walk. Every walk we have now is short one and at times and won't even walk more than a few feet :(

    We are now going to book to see a behaviourist. It's really upsetting to see it get to this point but Harry no longer enjoys his walks and he used to love them so much. We used to go so many nice places and can't anymore! Even when there aren't bangs he still freaks out and runs back to the car or house.
  10. snooks Experienced Member

    Darn I am sorry to hear that. I am very very glad you are going to a behaviorist. That is probably your best and fasted chance for solving this. My girl is sooo much better and it took me about a year to train her through being afraid of every new noise after she had some "bad timing," experiences.

    I sure hope you train around this quickly. If that doesn't work at all there are pharmaceuticals like SSRI's which can help if used with training. I don't like to use them as a first line approach and never without supportive training. If nothing else works this can make a huge difference for some dogs.
  11. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    So sorry to hear that he's regressed, but happy to hear you're getting the help of a professional. You've done all you can and it will do the both of you good to get pro help. Good luck to you!
  12. CollieMan Experienced Member

    Sorry to hear about the set-back. It's a bad time here in the UK right now too isn't it, with the crow-scarers going off so frequently.

    I hope you are able to find some relief with the behaviourist.
  13. harry8 New Member

    Thanks for your support :)

    Yes CollieMan - these crow-scarers are a nightmare. We found a great walk at Ascot Racecourses and they set these off so often even when there aren't any races taking place for weeks!! Most dogs I see are oblivious to it but Harry runs a mile!
  14. CollieMan Experienced Member

    I feel for you. :)

    Ellie is now at the stage where nine times out of ten she can ignore them. But that one in ten, which always seems incredibly loud, will have her cowering into my leg again. All I can do is carry on and let her adapt in her own time and in her own way. At least she doesn't run home any more!

    I'm sure you'll be able to find a solution in time. I certainly hope so anyway...

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