Posted : 4/27/2010 9:26:32 AM
I happened upon your post and joined this blog so I can share what has worked for us. I purchased a 4 1/2 months Shih Tzu from a breeder who lived in a rural community. Gatsby was happy and well-adjusted but was no used to loud urban/suburban noises. A car driving by, a helicopter, a large barking dog, a dropped pot, a surge protector alarm - these are examples of everyday noises that scared him. He would duck his tail and run to the other side of the room. I would soothe and console him until he felt better but each episode would repeat in fashion. The loud noises inside large buildings made visits to Petsmart, etc. an uncomfortable experience for him. He would reach better when Checkers, our older Pek, would go with him since the noise didn't bother Checkers. However, are many times when Checkers can't go, such as obedience class.
I have a friend who is a professional trainer with degrees in animal behavior and years of experience. She gave me advice about this problem that has been pure gold. As a note, the advice she has given me over the past 5 months has proven to be spot on. Here is what she said:
When we here noises, we have to judge them as life-threatening or not. This is a natural part of our nature. It is our job to teach our dog which noises are life-threatening and which are not. We do this by how we respond to the noise.
When a loud noise frightens Gatsby, my consoling him reinforces to him that being scared is the correct response. I need to retrain his response to normal loud noises.
Instead of trying to avoid these noises, set up situations where he can learn the correct response.
Gatsby loves to play with his squeaky toy. The sound of the toy signals to him that it is time to play. This toy is the trigger noise that I use to retrain his respond.
To do this I occasionally will make a loud noise such as a dropped pot or ringing door bell. Immediately I squeak the toy and say in my happy, playful voice, "Wasn't that funny? Oh let's play with the toy. Here go fetch." Each time I do this, he recovers from him fear faster than the time before. He seems to think, if Mom's thinks that was funny, then I do too.
I just started this two weeks ago and I have noticed a huge improvement. If we go to the park and he seems concerned by the large dog, I just stop and say in my happy voice "What a big, silly dog. Let's walk and have some fun." He then thinks that he should not be afraid of this dog so he can go back to normal mode.
I noticed from your responses the mental conflict that you felt about ignoring your dog when she was afraid. I hope that this will work for you. This gives you an active role in responding to your dog's fear instead of standing down and letting her deal with the fear by herself.
If you try this, it will be important to stay consistent in your response. These scary noises are really just noises not real life-threatening situations. Consoling her teaches her that these are life-threatening noises. Redirecting her response to it's time to play, teaches her that these are not life-threatening noises.
I would keep handy at all times the toy that you use to trigger the let's play response. I would also be consistent to use that toy noise to mean let's play. That way you reinforce the connection between the play noise and the learned response of that it's play time.
All the best,