Hello all, I need to ask for advice for my dog Anni. First, I'll tell you a little about her: she is a solid black 9 year old pup of Xero Z PS; she is extremely high drive and rambunctious, even at her age, but is of very stable and balanced character. I trained her in Schutzhund for a year when I got her as a puppy, but then had to stop when I went to college. She has still been a very good dog, my greatest joy and love.
The problem is I moved to Boulder a few months ago for my first job and around this time Anni developed a fear of wind. I know the cause of this: right before our move she'd had to stay with my parents for the month of July, in a town that celebrates the 4th with fireworks for, no exaggeration, the entire month. Before then, Anni had never been afraid of storms or gunfire, but since then she's developed a fear of atmospheric noises that has spiraled out of control... and now we have gotten to wind. Unfortunately, it is often windy in Boulder.
The big problem is what Anni does when I'm out at work and it gets windy: she has learned to unlock the front door and get outside to a (baby-gated) patio. She's calm once outside and will chill there until I get back. She would never run away but I still cannot have this, as she is not supposed to be outside unsupervised (this is an apartment complex and we've already gotten in trouble). If I prevent her from unlocking the door she will slam against it until she is limping and bleeding, and I'm afraid she will seriously hurt herself or break down the door (the door is glass).
As for what I've tried... She has learned to get around or over every barrier I've put up, including the new indoor 36" tall metal baby gate installed this morning, to get at the front door. I've also tried using a DAP diffuser, a thunder shirt, a fan, a white noise maker, her favorite music (Ottmar Liebert), and sun/noise blocking curtains, nothing of which has worked. I even (this will sound crazy) got her a 6mo shelter kitten to keep her company during the day. She loves the kitten but the company doesn't stop her fear of wind... I finally caved and just ordered a PetSafe Pawz Away Instant Pet Barrier that will deliver a shock if she goes near the indoor baby gate, and am considering getting a scat mat to lay in front of the door, but do not know yet if shocks will even penetrate her fear. So these are what I've tried or will try.
Some of you will probably say she needs better training, but I'll just be honest that I'm lost as to how to train against this behavior. Since terror is what motivates her to slam at the door, and as she only does this when it's windy and I'm not at home, I don't know know where to start. Do any of you have any ideas? When it's windy and I'm at home she will pant and pace nervously, but does not get out of control. I do not encourage this behavior by comforting her, and only give her positive attention or treats if she seems to settle down.
I've mentioned this problem to her vet, and he said this is a problem that only seems to get worse with time and is rarely resolved. We did not talk about anti-anxiety drugs and I don't think I want to consider that route yet.
If any of you have experience with this I'd be most grateful for your advice. I know some of you are probably wondering what the **** I'm doing in an apartment with a dog like this, but again I've had her for all 9 of her years. For the first 8 of them she grew up on a big property with plenty of space. I got the biggest apt I could afford (830 square feet) with a big patio for her to lay out on when I'm at home and nice running trails with lakes nearby. I know it's still not enough for dogs like ours, but for now am stuck in the lease for another 6 months... Anyway, hope someone can help and thanks again