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Anxious dog...help!

Picotte
April 17th, 2009, 11:19 PM
We have a 2 years old miniature schnauzer mix and he started trembling and being scared in specific situations :

- in the car (10min+ trips and highway)
- when the natural gas fireplace is on
- after hearing the fire alarm

He will begin trembling and then try to go hide himself and gasp for breathe. When he enters that state, we try not to confort him or give him positive feedback - we act normally and try to distract him but he stays focus on his fear. He has been exposed to all these things since he's a puppy and was never scared until 6 months ago. There were no incidents or events I can think of that could have triggered this sudden fear/anxiety. Any ideas/tips to help?

Bailey_
April 18th, 2009, 01:57 AM
Every one of those situations seem to exhibit fear or anxiousness in many different dogs; you aren't alone.

For the car - have you tried putting your dog in the vehicle without going anywhere at all? And after a calm 2-5 minute period of your dog sitting in the car, rewarding his peaceful state with a game of tug or a nice long walk? A lot of times, dogs will get motion sickness like people and this can trigger a variety of emotions from them. Have you tried a safety harness on your pooch while travelling? This particular item was great help to our family with our dog when she started to exhibit nervous/anxious behavior...it kept her in one place, and seemed to comfort her from the movement of the vehicle.

The fire alarm is a big! loud! scary! sound for any dog, especially seeing as their hearing is much more sensitive than ours. A dog with a heightened anxiety levels can be more affected to things like thunder, loud tvs, and in your case - a fire alarm.
My suggestion would be to contact a profesional trainer in your area for this problem. You could start playing a tape of different types of beeps and alarms to her - start them off quietly, and gradually build it louder. Always remember to reward calm behavior (ONLY if she doesn't react or ignores the sounds on the tape all together). This needs to be done extremley carefully and slowly however, so as not to make the problem worse, and as I mentioned - consulting a profesional in this case would be of your best benefit.

As for the gas fireplace, that too is a normal reaction from many dogs. It's scary for them to see fire in their homes. (Or because the reflection on the glass freaks them out, or a million other things.) Do you know if he reacts the same to a campfire?

Picotte
May 3rd, 2009, 06:03 PM
Thanks for your input!

For the car he's not anxious when getting in or little commuting... its precisely on the highway that he gets scared - and this wasn't the case before (6 months+ ago). Isn't that strange?

animaladvocate
May 3rd, 2009, 08:03 PM
I just wanted to jump in an offer my HO ;)

If you are comforting him as you say and give him positive feedback, as weird as this sounds your reinforcing his worry and anxiety. Since your giving him pets and kind words, your giving a reward to the behavior (his anxiety) which reinforces it (causes it to continue).

As hard as it is, you cannot do that-it just makes it worse. I know how you feel though, it's hard not to comfort a shaking dog. We had a dog who suddenly became scare of lightning (can't blame her it struck and burned down the neighbours house!) and she would shake for hours in the basement whenever a storm was coming. It was awful.

Baileys suggestions sound great!

Promethean
May 3rd, 2009, 11:06 PM
I just wanted to jump in an offer my HO ;)

If you are comforting him as you say and give him positive feedback, as weird as this sounds your reinforcing his worry and anxiety. Since your giving him pets and kind words, your giving a reward to the behavior (his anxiety) which reinforces it (causes it to continue).

As hard as it is, you cannot do that-it just makes it worse. I know how you feel though, it's hard not to comfort a shaking dog. We had a dog who suddenly became scare of lightning (can't blame her it struck and burned down the neighbours house!) and she would shake for hours in the basement whenever a storm was coming. It was awful.

Baileys suggestions sound great!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2006/0601-help_for_thunderphobic_dogs.htm

If we use the same line of thinking then this article referring to a Pennsylvania State University study suggests that it's a myth consoling the dog reinforces the fear. The explanation never really made sense to me and I was happy to see research on the subject.

Picotte
May 4th, 2009, 10:22 PM
I just wanted to jump in an offer my HO ;)

If you are comforting him as you say and give him positive feedback, as weird as this sounds your reinforcing his worry and anxiety. Since your giving him pets and kind words, your giving a reward to the behavior (his anxiety) which reinforces it (causes it to continue).

As hard as it is, you cannot do that-it just makes it worse. I know how you feel though, it's hard not to comfort a shaking dog. We had a dog who suddenly became scare of lightning (can't blame her it struck and burned down the neighbours house!) and she would shake for hours in the basement whenever a storm was coming. It was awful.

Baileys suggestions sound great!

I wrote "When he enters that state, we try NOT to confort him or give him positive feedback".

tenderfoot
May 5th, 2009, 02:03 PM
If we use the same line of thinking then this article referring to a Pennsylvania State University study suggests that it's a myth consoling the dog reinforces the fear. The explanation never really made sense to me and I was happy to see research on the subject.

If I read the article/video correctly, it didn't dispel the idea that consoling your dog reinforces the fear, it said that consoling your dog didn't reduce his stress levels but having another dog present does reduce the stress levels.

Your dog looks to you for leadership, guidance and protection. Just like a child looks to their parents for the same. If you 'coo' at your dog when he is scared of the man in the big hat approaching you, he doesn't hear your words of comfort - he hears your tones. The same tones you use when you are rewarding him. He thinks you are saying good job for being scared - so he is going to simply continue being scared and maybe even more so.

The worst thing is when you act fearful yourself - like scooping your little dog into your arms when a large dog approaches you - the leader is showing fear. Now your dog thinks "darn, your scared too?" So now your little dog sees that his leader is scared and since someone has to act as the leader to keep the pack safe - he is the only one left to keep you two safe and he will start snarling, snapping and lunging at the other dog to keep him away. Hence most aggressive dogs are simply acting out of fear/insecurity because their person has not provided clear and confident leadership.

We work with highly stressed dogs all of the time. I can absolutely say that 'cooing' at a stress dog can make things worse. We witness it daily. People are amazed that their dogs can settle down so quickly when treated properly for their stress.

I am curious about the things that set your dog off.
- in the car (10min+ trips and highway). When you are just runing local errands the cars engine is in a lower gear. At higher RPM's the engine sounds different. It could be the change in the engine that sets the dog off.
- when the natural gas fireplace is on. Is there any kind of high pitch sound that accompanies the release of the gas? You may not even be able to hear it yourself -but your dog can.
- after hearing the fire alarm. Obviously disturbing sound - no mystery there.

Some dogs have a greater sensitivity to sound than others. It often doesn't show up until they are older. Many dogs don't show fear to thunderstorms until they are 3 years old.

Keeping your dog in a crate that is covered with a heavy blanket can help reduce the sounds. Moving him into a bathroom during storms can help insulate him from the noise (due to the walls having tile on them and showers being enclosed). De-sensitizing him to noise can be very helpful as mentioned by the earlier posting.

animaladvocate
May 5th, 2009, 05:29 PM
http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2006/0601-help_for_thunderphobic_dogs.htm

If we use the same line of thinking then this article referring to a Pennsylvania State University study suggests that it's a myth consoling the dog reinforces the fear. The explanation never really made sense to me and I was happy to see research on the subject.


Thanks for the link-I'll check it out. I don't like ignoring any fearful animal but it's textbook to do so Thanks!

alagu
June 16th, 2009, 11:42 PM
I have a dog who is petrified of thunderstorms. I also tried medication and it totally knocked out my dog and made her sick. I would definitely not recommend using medication. I did buy something called the Thundershirt, which is a shirt that you wrap around your dog to help them calm their anxiety. I was shocked to find that it really helped calm her down tremendously, would definitely recommend this solution.

Picotte
June 17th, 2009, 09:36 AM
Yeah im sure a 40$ tshirt will help my dog feel safe... If you want to promote your company/products please do it outside of discussion forums!