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Need help with my noise-phobic dog

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posted on May, 15 2015 @ 04:09 PM
I'm hoping someone here has some ideas for how I can help my dog. He's a lab/Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix and is 4 years old. He's always been skittish of storms and fireworks, like a lot of dogs are, but this year he's now afraid of lawnmowers, weed eaters, anything that makes a noise at all. If he's out in the yard playing and the neighbor starts their mower, he's banging on the door to get in and then goes directly into the shower and hunkers into a little ball and shakes, pants, and drools so much I'm afraid he's going to have a heart attack.

When I talked his his vet about it, he prescribed Xanex, which I have given him a few times and which seemed to stop his shaking. However, I've been reading up on it and decided a couple weeks ago to stop the meds because I read that they will just not let him physically react, but he will still be just as messed up mentally. It went on to say that the meds could even make the condition worse.

I bought some Lavender Essential Oil because of the calming properties and have started massaging him with a small amount whenever he gets this way. It does seem to be helping some as far as the shaking goes, but that seems to be all it's helping with. It just started raining here about an hour ago, and he headed into the shower about 30 minutes before it even started because I guess he knew it was coming. Some articles say let them find a safe, dark place with no windows where they feel safe, like the shower, and other articles say to keep him engaged. I don't know which one to go with.

Because April has been extremely stormy this month, he's lost about 5 lbs and hasn't eaten a full meal for the last 4-5 days. I can talk him into a cheeseburger, but he won't touch his food at all. Even after the rain stops, he won't come out of the shower for hours. Now, for the past 3-4 weeks, when it isn't even raining or storming, I can't get him to come out of his kennel which I have in the spare bedroom. He won't come out in the living room with me while I'm watching television and basically has no interaction with me at all. It seems like he's just getting more and more isolated and in his own head.

I don't know what to do about it and I'm getting really, really worried. Anyone got any ideas?

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 04:57 PM
a reply to: hebegbes

I was going to say go back to the basics with food training but if he's not accepting food even after days of not eating hardly anything then I would have to say that maybe something is seriously medically wrong here, in some form or another.

He might have some form of infection that's also affecting his perception of sense. I'd say go back to your vet and get him checked out properly.

If you get him to start going for food again, I can only suggest to teach him that he only gets his food when it's near the lawnmower, and so forth. It's harsh, but we use exactly the same techniques on ourselves (close proximity phobia cures).

That's all assuming that it's a personal psychological thing for your dog and not a recent physical change that's seriously messing with his sensory perception.

Hope that helps in any way at all. I'd say go vet again and suggest that you think shaking is just one symptom of a larger problem here and mention the recent loss of appetite as well.

Maybe hold out on a week or two to see if the appetite recovers - if not then definitely go back to the vet. Animals have no logical reason to reject food, unless their system is really and truly telling them not to - which is hardly ever a good sign.
edit on 15-5-2015 by DazDaKing because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 05:15 PM
a reply to: hebegbes
To get him to eat put a little bit of human food in with his. My dogs get bored every now and then so I mix up some sandwich meat, or eggs, or bacon, leftovers in with their food and problem solved. If he scarfs down a burger, I am sure that will work as well. I sometimes put a little bacon grease in their food too as it is good for their coat (so is fish oil), but just a tiny bit, no need to clog their arteries.

For his anxiety I am glad you stopped his meds. I would condition him to sounds. Start out small, maybe with an electric razor or fan, or something that makes a little noise. Let him get curious, check it out and get use to it and work your way up. Hopefully, with time, he'll get use to the sounds, or at lease to the point where he isn't getting as anxious as he is.

Hope he gets better and you find a solution.

edit on 5/15/2015 by AllSourceIntel because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 05:24 PM
I've heard these things work wonders to help them get over anxiety of all sorts. It's called the Thunder Shirt.
edit on 17u5505pmb15America/Chicago by Hushabye because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 05:31 PM
Hi hebegbes,

Your thread has finally motivated me to make a first post after a long time lurking. I've been lucky enough to share my life so far with a couple of extremely damaged but ultimately wonderful dogs. From what you describe in your post it would appear to me that the issues your furry friend is dealing with appear to be psychological rather than medical. I'd strongly recommend your best course of action would be to seek the advice of a dog behaviour specialist. It's a much maligned area of expertise but if you're lucky enough to have a good local one it really can make the difference.

Without knowing more of the history of your dog, for example was it a rescue and the environment at home it is impossible to really offer any suggestions as to the underlying cause. From what you say it appears that when under duress your dog leaves the area to seek a place of quiet where it feels safe. Would it be possible to make a quite space such as an open crate in your front room covered with a blanket where it can safely retreat to but still stay in your presence? The dark and feeling of enclosure should really help.

If you want to do some reading around the subject I would highly recommend the works of Jan Fennell who has done some fabulous work in the field. Links to her work and forum are easy enough to find and helped us massively.

Sorry I can't be of any more help and I wish you both the best of luck.

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 05:54 PM
a reply to: hebegbes

1 Words....Thunder vest
look them up
Oh and stop petting him and telling him its ok.He thinks your praising him forbeing upset.
edit on 15-5-2015 by Dimithae because: added

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 06:21 PM
a reply to: hebegbes

Have your dog see you use noisy things. This seems to be a bit severe so I don't know, start small.. Electric toothbrush or something like that.. Use it and try to get your dog to not care about it.. Clippers for your hair.. Work up.

Am I missing something though? Seems something new happened? Could your dog have had a new traumatic experience? Did this develop over time?

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 06:26 PM

originally posted by: Dimithae
a reply to: hebegbes

1 Words....Thunder vest
look them up
Oh and stop petting him and telling him its ok.He thinks your praising him forbeing upset.


I don't know how to explain that better.. Don't ever pet or praise for any behavior except the exact right one..

Though you can be nice and have a calming presence near them.

It's a hard thing to explain. Guys understand it more naturally. Don't comfort the dog for messing up, but then don't let the dog feel afraid for no reason either.. Some exact amount of tough love.

In these cases I tend to talk to the animal in a normal tone of voice and just explain everything as if I am talking to someone who knows what all those words mean.. I find this makes an animal think you are saying things they should understand and when they try to, it helps to focus them away from their fears without you directly comforting them as a reward for messing up.

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 06:36 PM
a reply to: hebegbes
Hmmmmm, well I've had a lot of success lately with my dog, Bella Blue who is a lab, pointer mix. She's a rescue dog that I adopted when she was 5, she's 12 years old now. She has always been beyond terrified of thunder and fireworks. She'd shake so much that I took her to the vet and he gave her dog xanax, which didn't really help much. She then progressed into being upset about bug zappers, or even putting a cup down on a table would upset her, it was getting worse.

Then, about 1 month ago she had a rash on the inside of her hind leg and I noticed she didn't hear the door bell or bark at sounds so much. So I took her back to the vet and he put her on 1 Claritin antihistamine a day. I poke it into a piece of hotdog and she loves it.

After about two weeks I noticed her rash was gone, her hearing was back and wow, she doesn't get upset at sounds much anymore. We've had non-stop thunderstorms every day for the last 10 days here in Austin. All she does now is sit on the floor by my feet but the trembling is gone. It's as if her allergies had made her hyper-sensitive to sound. Idk maybe her inner ear was inflamed from the allergies?

Just thought I'd pass this along, don't know if it is the same for your dog,


Bella Blue

edit on 15-5-2015 by seentoomuch because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 15 2015 @ 07:55 PM
Hello, I have done a bunch of dog training with Labs and Rottweilers.

My advice is give him continuous socialization. He needs to acclimate to noises obviously.

If you take him for walks every day for at least an hour or two, this will help him. My current pup was a little noise shy as well.

This is from a lack of normalization to noises. Walk him on a lead and feed treats as you go. Stay calm and let them see you are not scared or threatened and they will not be either.

It's all about repetition until they no longer need to think they might be in danger.

If you walk in extremely busy areas, around traffic and noises, this will help tremendously.

The more going on the better. He will eventually just figure it out.

If you can find a place he can burn out his energy before training this will help you walk him better, he will have less pent up energy. Retrieving a ball, running next to bike etc.

This will also help with the storm anxiety. Watch the weather forecast, if a storm is coming, go wear him out running before it. I would also keep him in the room with you and not let him run away and hide.

My dog had major issues with wanting to chase bicycles and joggers.
This would happen every once and a while. In order to break this, I took him on lead down to the busiest bike path in town and sat for a couple hours. I fed him treats when he didn't pull on the lead. It only took one session. Now he barely glances at them.

This noise shyness is completely normal, it was just never broken through socialization with the basics people, dogs, noises, as it should have at around a few months old, but it can be rectified with consistent training.

Once he sees he is not in danger, his anxiety will be gone. Stay away from drugs, its not changing the problem and giving him confidence. Imo

Dogs that have anxiety issues will lead to health issues as well. Show him the way and he will be calm and healthy in no time.

edit on 5 by Mandroid7 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 08:10 AM
a reply to: hebegbes

I agree with the Thunder Shirt AND "not comforting" recommendations.

With the Lavender oil, I'd put it on the bottom of his bed instead of on, him. It's very strong smelling. That way, his bed or place will be associated with relaxation.

Does he have any toys or treats that he loves and do you have a treadmill? And can you get (or make) a recording of thunder and loud noises? The idea is to get the dog doing something that he loves to keep his mind busy while the noises are happening, so he associates good things with thunder instead of bad.

Please watch this (If you can find or buy the episode, it may really help - Season 4, Episode 10):

I found it:

edit on 5/16/2015 by Benevolent Heretic because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 08:40 AM
Oh No, so sorry. I've been down that path too with my wirefox terrier. She would PANIC at thunder, fireworks, weedeaters, etc. As a young puppy, the first thunder she heard was in the middle of the night. She woke me up literally throwing herself against the bedroom door, wanting out. Like she thought the source was in our bedroom.

I went the same routes you guys have, vet's, Xanax, etc. The Xanax did help, but I hated giving it to her, so I stopped. I didn't like what it did to her. The vacuum cleaner, though, made her furious! She attacked it and left bite marks all over it. She was going for blood. As time went along, she got better with outdoor noises, but never became calm with thunder or fireworks. Those were the worst. I did hold her beside the lawnmower while it was off, and let her sniff it and become familiar with it. I even put her on it, and sat on it myself so she could see it was okay. Then I would hold her as it started up, so she could see what it was. That did help somewhat. Same with other lawn equipment. I left the weedeater out on her territory for a whole day once, so she could become familiar with it. I think they think those things are alive.

But I finally gave up. I knew all the noises were time-limited, so I just held her during a storm, or any other noise. Said soothing things to her, tried to distract her with her toys, or treats. She would stop panicking when I held her, but still trembled.

So good luck! It's a tough one. Hope you have success. If you do let us know what works. My two Westies I have now are apparently fearless. Ain't no big sky noise gonna scare those little shortlegged crumbsnatchers. : ) And ..... it's a relief. My dear fox terrier got so scared. I hated it for her.

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 11:03 AM
First... thanks, all, for the replies.

a reply to: DazDaKing

I spoke to his vet about it, or, rather, I tried to, but as soon as the word "thunder" came out of my mouth, it was like he and the vet techs just shut down... oh, well, a lot of dogs have that... nothing to be worried about... here's some Xanax. They don't see him going through the changes that I see, and it's worrisome. I mean, it's really extreme. All the vets can do is give out meds, and I don't want him on Xanax. I'm fairly certain there is nothing else physically going on. If it's a clear, nice day, and it's been that way for a couple days, he's absolutely normal and will eat, run, chase squirrels... normal doggie stuff, but the minute he hears a sound, he's gone. He could be running and playing hard in the yard and he hears a sound, his tail gets tucked, ears get flattened back, and he's looking for a hiding place. It's the noise, I know it.

Are you saying to feed him outside next to a running mower or something? There's no way I'd even GET him outside, let along try to entice him to eat his food out there. I need to do some research on the close proximity phobia cures you mention, I guess.

Thanks for the reply, DazDaKing.

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 11:16 AM
a reply to: AllSourceIntel

Yeah, I do do that, that's why I said I can talk him into a cheeseburger, but not his food. But he'll only even take the cheeseburger or some people food after a day or two. It's been raining here off and on since yesterday, and he's now hiding in the shower and it's not even raining right now. He hasn't touched anything since he ate a hotdog yesterday afternoon. People food is the only thing I CAN get him to take, but that's only if he's out of the shower long enough which means no rain and no noise for long enough where he thinks it's safe to stick his head out.

I'm trying to condition him to sounds, but it's really hard. He just runs away and hides. I can see him shutting down and then nothing's getting through to him at all. I can see the fear in his eyes and it scares me. I don't want to inadvertently make him worse than what he is .... like if I drug him next to a loud lawnmower or something and made him stay there. I don't think he'd make it through something like that.

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 11:16 AM
a reply to: Hushabye

He's had one for a year.... doesn't all. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 11:36 AM
a reply to: DrBobH

Glad this made you post, Dr. Bob. I agree... I know this is entirely psychological. I hope I haven't screwed up my dog because of my own neuroses or something. Although, I'm not afraid of thunder or loud noises, and I don't act any differently when that stuff's going on than normal. I am afraid my lifestyle has affected him, though. He is a rescue, but I've had him since he has 11 weeks old. I live alone, just me and him, and there is really no one ever at my house. He's not used to kids screaming, playing and laughing. That's another thing that terrifies him.... there are children that live behind me and when they are outside playing, he doesn't want to be outside any longer. He wants in the shower. It just keeps getting worse. Last year, he would stay outside with me when I mowed the grass. He'd even walk along next to me. When my neighbor cut his grass last year, Mojo was running along the fence next to him barking like crazy. This year, though, if he's outside when my neighbor goes out to get his lawnmower, he's either wanting in the house or he'll go hide under my holly bush. Nothing happened in a year to change him like this.

I've been taking him to school ever since puppy classes when I first got him at 11 weeks. He's gone through puppy school, obedience, novice obedience, advanced obedience, and now he's in advanced agility classes. That's the only time he's really ever around anybody else, or any other dogs for that matter.

If I make him a quiet space in my living room, is that really helping? I mean, what's the difference between that and the shower? I'd like him to be engaging with me, playing with me... not curled up in a ball somewhere shaking and hiding, even if it's in the living room.

I've never heard of Jan Fennell.... thanks for the suggestion. I'm going to do that research today. Storms are supposed to hit here in about 2 hours.

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 11:39 AM
a reply to: Dimithae

The Thundershirt doesn't work for him. He's had one for a long time. And I don't coddle him or soothe him when he's like that. I've read not to do that, so I don't. I leave him be. So he's in the shower all day long, and I'm in the rest of the house all day long by myself. I do peek in on him occasionally to make sure he's alright, but I don't talk to him or comfort him....and that's hard not to do because it's so scary looking to me.

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 11:49 AM
a reply to: KnightLight

Yep, it's getting worse over time. He wasn't this bad last year. He's always been this bad over fireworks, though. But regular summer sounds.... lawnmowers, weedeaters, kids playing.... send him into a tizzy now when they didn't before. That's what I don't understand.... how could he have gotten this bad over a year with nothing traumatic happening to him. I have read, though, that the condition can get worse with no causal factor involved.

One of the articles I read said that dogs with separation anxiety are really prone to being this way. I never thought about him having separation anxiety before because when I leave the house, he doesn't destroy anything. He just hangs out on the bed looking out of the window or lays on the couch. I always thought separation anxiety caused dogs to tear up stuff when their owners left, but he doesn't. I could be wrong on that, and probably am. I don't know what other symptoms show from separation anxiety. I could understand him having it, though, just because it's always just been me and him and him not getting much contact with anybody/anything else other than the other dogs in school with him. I am his entire world, and that's probably where I've screwed up.

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 11:54 AM
a reply to: seentoomuch

That's really interesting. I've glad you found your solution. The progression of the symptoms sounds exactly like what mine is going through. I probably should get him to the vet and have him checked out, although I know he's not going to find anything. He's just gonna tell me to keep up the Xanax, which I'm not going to do. What other symptoms of allergies are there, I wonder.... he doesn't seem to have anything wrong with him physically at all. It's just this noise issue.

posted on May, 16 2015 @ 12:01 PM
a reply to: Mandroid7

Really informative info, Mandroid. Thank you! I do think this is the root of it.... he's just never been around noisy kids, people, traffic. I just don't know how to fix it. So you don't think I should be letting him go hide in the shower? You think I should just keep the bathroom door shut and force him to deal with it? See, this is what I get conflicting information about. Do I make him deal with it, or do I let him feel safe and secure? I'm afraid if I go the route of letting him go in the shower whenever he gets afraid, he's never gonna deal with it, but it's just that his physical reaction is so strong, I think he's hurting himself more. And I can't get him to even take treats when he's like this, so I don't know how to condition him to it. Heck, I can't even get him out of the shower.

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