Stopping fear of... - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-12-2012, 12:29 PM Thread Starter
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Stopping fear of...

How do you stop your dog from being scared of things like a vacuum, fireworks, storms, drills, etc..

It really doesn't make sense to me. We have a Swiffer vacuum that she tries to play with/attack but when we bring out the slighter bigger and slightly louder vacuum, she runs with her trail between her legs!

I'd like to stop this behavior before it gets too bad. Once summer comes i'll be using saws, air compressors and the lawn mower a lot and I don't want to have her constantly scared.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-16-2012, 05:08 PM
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We used this Tug-A-Jug (<--link) toy for Keek (during puppyhood)...putting a whole meal of kibble in it just before tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms were hitting us; or fireworks at holidays; space shuttle takeoff or landing, etc...that toy worked miracles. She was too busy to get frightened. We had to put knuckle bones, antlers, etc., things like that inside it so she had to work smarter to get the kibble to fall out for her to eat. The tug part of that toy was useless---at the time it was made of rubber so we just tucked it into the interior of the jug. The newer version of the tug part would be too easy-peasy shred-able for Keek or any of our girls.....(I would just donate that). Playing games really helped Keek during storms. I called the Tug-A-Jug, "Jug" --hide it, and have Keek go find it by its name. The best spot was in the bathtub, thus killing two fears in a very positive way. She was such a weird little puppy, who came out of a yukky situation (imagine a starving puppy having puppies, then go on and picture a worse case senario for those pups to live in, and then you would have Keek's profile).

With the vacuum, or any other "scarey monster"----we approached it much the same way, many times using whole meals of kibble in the "Jug", and worked on that slowly....until I could vacuum her. Everything had to be a positive game for her. Playing tug, flirt-rod, and other games helps her get thru lots! She thrives now, can even handle gunfire and big booms, no problem. But she is still my weird little puppy.

Oh---before I forget to mention it, we also use DAP and music. Lots of exercise and mental games....and rewards (even if it's just a small, "That's my girl") for doing the right thing!

Last edited by Gmthrust; 01-16-2012 at 05:15 PM.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-17-2012, 05:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks very much. I'll be ordering a Tug-A-Jug tonight.

What is DAP?
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-18-2012, 10:49 AM
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DAP=Dog Appeasing Pheromone. We employed all the different varieties---the plug-in defusers, collars, and spray bottles.

We have four different dog music CD's playing at all times in infinite-loop mode.....low enough to be just plain background sounds. I like the music, sooo even if that type of alphabetagamma brainwave therapy is junk-science, it's very pleasant to hear.

Also, Keek receives the best of the very best in nutrition. I'm constantly researching for knowledge in that regard----

In one post somewhere, I wrote that we would crawl over broken glass for Keek's sake.....the pay off has been extremely successful. Keek is our "IT" girl. Everybody, and I mean everysinglepersoneverywhere who's met her go koo-koo for Keek. She sometimes uses her it-girl status as a means to get whatever she wants and we gotta remind her to use her power for good....only good...but her genius is diabolical. She has husky somewhere deep flowing thru-out her veins (the evidence is visible in her left eye which is ice-blue). If you've ever owned a husky, or part-husky, then you know of the highly-spirited mischevious nature, and, not always, but it's often enough gotta be channeled for the positive outcome. Training and socialization is a continuous must.....till one of us passes away..... it's so much fun though, so it's all good.

We have six females (including me and our cat) co-existing side-by-side peacefully together. And all of this started because Keek needed help. She very much has paid it forward, many times over. We've all benefitted from Keek!
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-18-2012, 01:25 PM
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Well, Sheldon's never been afraid of the vacuum (he thinks it's great fun and loves to chase it), but he had one episode on his 3rd or 4th time going shooting with us that he got spooked for some reason. I just got on his level, and in a happy, excited voice asked him "what is that, bubbah? What is it??" and he eventually calmed down and didn't care anymore again. I find the 'what is it' worked great.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-18-2012, 01:39 PM
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Since we got Sophie as a puppy I was able to desensitize her. Initially she would run away or try to attack the vacuum cleaner but I would turn it off and let it stand so she could come up to it throughout the day and sniff it. Then I progressed with turning it on but not using it. I left it sit like that for a bit so she could approach it and sniff. The next step was during the vacuuming. I would call her to my side as I was vacuuming and then just for a few seconds pet her with one hand while vacuuming with the other. She learned that the vacuum was nothing to be afraid of. I also never teased her with it so she would not get mixed messages. As it is now, Sophie walks right next to me while I am vacuuming not afraid of it at all.

I could never break Max off the vacuum fear. I basically tell him when I am done with one room...he then goes into it knowing I won't come back there. So while I am vacuuming he keeps his focus on me so I could communicate to him where he will not be in the way of the vacuum. Lexie, couldn't care less actually. She stays on the couch whether I am upstairs or downstairs vacuuming. Just throw a couch into the equation and she is set.


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R.I.P. Ozzy, Sabrie, Kaiser (GSDs), Peaches (Cat)

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Last edited by KSdogowner; 01-18-2012 at 01:43 PM.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-20-2012, 10:03 AM
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Mine barks when I vacuum...what I now do is I put her in the crate beforehand, then as I start to vacuum, I have a handful of treats that I will throw in from time to time. She doesn't really bark anymore.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-20-2012, 03:51 PM
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I think you're trying to approach the problem by wanting the fear BEHAVIOR to go away. I don't think that's what you want. I think you want your puppy to be confident and not fearful, rather than just not ACT fearful.

Going through fear stages and having a fear of the unknown, scary, and noisy are as normal for puppies as they are for human kids. The difference is, with a human child, you can tell them it's no big deal, explain to them there's nothing to be scared of. With a puppy, if you start fussing over them when they're frightened, you're actually reinforcing their fear by telling them that this is the appropriate behavior to fear. After all, you're acting weird and paying attention to them for this behavior, so it must be the right thing to do.

The best way to deal with puppies and fear is to expose them to the things they are fearful of in a controlled environment. High-value rewards, like a favorite toy or really good treats, are a great way to help your puppy have positive associations with the things they're scared of.

I train my dogs to be safe around gunfire, and the way I start this is by starting off at the most far away area of the range I can go to and playing tug with them while other people shoot. Then we gradually move closer - as close as I can get with the dog still being engaged in the game and not focused on the loud noises.

You can use the same approach for any loud noise that you have some control over - like the vacuum, or power tools. Start a distance away with someone engaging the dog with treats or toys and gradually move closer, watching for signs of stress - like focusing on the scary noise, panting with "tight" lips, yawning, etc.

And there's nothing wrong with letting puppy check out those tools and the vacuum while they are turned off. Maybe have them pick some treats up from the scary thing. Or even once you can get them to come closer voluntarily, toss some treats from the scary object to associate it further with good things happening.

If you're suddenly exposed to a loud noise, it's normal for a dog to startle. If they go and investigate what startled them, I praise and reward. If they give me a stress or fear behavior, I act as if nothing out of the ordinary has occurred. I usually would ask them to sit or down - or any other command they know well - and then praise/reward for that so they are not focusing or remaining focused on the scary thing.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-11-2012, 03:34 PM
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My 14 week old, shreak barks at our 11 year old Golden Retriever demanding attention however displaying do I stop that?
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