How to desensitize to sound.....need advice. - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 01:09 PM Thread Starter
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How to desensitize to sound.....need advice.

Hello all,

I write today to elicit some thoughts on effective ways to desensitize your dog to loud sounds.

Otto is 10months and intact. I would characterize his sensitivity to sound as mild. I wouldn't really even call it a problem, however there are times when he will be reactive to loud sounds.

I shoot skeet competitively so he has had quite a bit of exposure to loud sounds from an early age. So I see this as strengthening his training as opposed to fixing a problem.

Since his nerves are generally very strong, I feel that the proper approach to the occasional loud noise will allow me to fine tune his sensitivity to sound and further strengthen his temperament.

An example is on one of our walking routes there is a very low train bridge that has frequent train traffic. A mile long freight train passing 10 feet over your head is certainly a stressor, for anyone. I use this frequently as a training tool.

My tactic is to stand right under the bridge and put Otto in a sit stay and stand completely still with him by my side. No real praise or anything, I just stand there and pretend it is not happening. I can tell he wants to run away but I just try to be as calm as possible. Then after it is all over, I throw him a party.

Most sounds are a one time deal so it is hard for me to replicate most of the sounds that will frighten him in a controlled setting. There really aren't that many that do scare him. Loud motorcycles are the worst for Otto.

Am I taking the right approach? Obviously the wrong approach could manifest a problem that didn't previously exist so that is why I ask.

Any and all thoughts are appreciated.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 01:49 PM
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Instead of standing right under the bridge when the loud train is passing overhead, what about standing away from it, at whatever distance Otto seems comfortable. Put him into a sit, and then feed feed feed GREAT tasting treats as the train is passing. He'll start to associate the sound of the train with yummy treats.

Once he's comfortable at that distance, move closer and feed, feed, feed.

Sooner rather than later he should be able to be sitting under the bridge realizing the train will do no harm

Lisa
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 01:58 PM
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I agree with Lisa. You are way too close and if you keep this up, your dog will be extremely sound sensitive. Back off, however far it takes, so your dog notices but is comfortable with the sound. While the sound or train is happening, you should be doing something fun with your dog, not just standing there where he can be thinking about it and getting nervous. Once it's done, then party. Gradually move closer as he can tolerate it.

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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by *Lisa* View Post
Instead of standing right under the bridge when the loud train is passing overhead, what about standing away from it, at whatever distance Otto seems comfortable. Put him into a sit, and then feed feed feed GREAT tasting treats as the train is passing. He'll start to associate the sound of the train with yummy treats.

Once he's comfortable at that distance, move closer and feed, feed, feed.

Sooner rather than later he should be able to be sitting under the bridge realizing the train will do no harm
I agree 100% with Lisa, working "under threshold" is better http://functionalrewards.com/BAT-basics.pdf
My trainer explained to me once "on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being calm, it is much easier to keep a dog calm than to get a dog who's at a 10 back down to a 1".

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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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I would estimate Otto's stress level to be no more than a 5 in these situations I am wondering about. I certainly agree with everyone's advice in the context of a high stress situation. But Otto's reaction in that situation is more of a "Whoa what is that?" as opposed to an "OH MY GOD IMPENDING DOOM!" Though a novice relatively speaking, I feel that I have a good enough bond with my dog that I am reading his stress level correctly. I do everything in my power to keep him out of high-stress situations. He is pretty solid so it's not that hard.

The only thing that I have found that will truly even approach a high stress level is when he is held and you won't let go. Like a bear hug type hold. He hates that.

On that idea, I am wondering about the implications of putting my dog in a level 5 situation without much build up. A good analogy would be ripping off a band-aid. Rather than making a big deal about something minor, my mentality has been to just make him face his fears on a certain level. Assuming I have a good amount of control over the situation. If I don't, then I just do my best to remove him from that situation.

Whenever there is something stupid that startles him I always try to go back and show him what it was that made the noise and I'll sort of hang out there until he calms down.

Just to reiterate, we are talking about situations that bring Otto to a level 5 of stress, at the highest.

Thoughts?

P.S. - Feel free to tell me that I have it all wrong if I do.
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