Helping a Santa Monica Pitbull Who is Afraid of the Smoke Alarm

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 30, 2021

For this Santa Monica dog training session, we worked with Marley, a 4 year-old Pitbull who is reactive to sounds when she is home.

Marley is a very high energy dog and since she lives in an apartment, I spent a good portion of the session going over creative forms of exercise like scent games, sniff walks, feeding out of snuffle matts, treat puzzles, lick mats, the doggie stair master and more. Alternating between physical exercise and mental stimulation like basic training or scent games should help keep this high energy dog from bouncing off the walls and jumping up on her guardians. I also gave the guardian a list of chew tems. Chewing is a great way to help keep the dog occupied as well as burn energy.

We covered a lot of basics in this introductory session to help the guardians with some of her peculiar behaviors such as using marker words, celebrating desired behaviors and teaching her how to politely ask for attention. Marley did struggle a bit when we worked on hand targeting, but her guardian stuck with it and had her touching her nose to her hand consistently after a few minutes.

One of the more pressing issues was the dog’s reaction to sounds outside of the home or unexpected noises like a smoke alarm. The guardians informed me that they had a very sensitive smoke alarm that goes off often when they are cooking and the sound scares the dog.

Anytime I have a dog that is reactive to sounds, I always recommend desensitizing and counterconditioning. Stopping a dog from being afraid of a sound can have a profound impact on them when the sound happens with some regularity. If a sound that startles or scares your dog happens often, this can cause a dog to feel like impending doom is just around the corner.

I hated my camera to the guardian so that I could demonstrate how you can use counterconditioning to stop a dog from being reactive to sounds.

Stopping a dog from being fearful of sounds is easy if you follow this dog behavior trick. The key is to go slow and at the dog’s pace. If Marley starts to display signs of fear, anxiety or stress, it’s likely that her guardians are raising the level of intensity to quickly. If they watch her body language and proceed at her pace, it shouldn’t take long for them to help her get over her fear of the smoke alarm sounds. The best thing about this exercise is anyone can do it, you don’t have to be a professional pitbull dog trainer.

Because Marley also had difficulty listening to her guardians and didn’t always pay attention, I showed her guardians a simple orientation game that they can play.

If they do this dog attention exercise in the home a few times, it will set them up to do it outside of their home. Just like the counter conditioning exercise, they will need to go at her pace and not progressed to an environment that is too distracting to quickly. But based on how quickly she responded to the exercise and her guardians determination to help their dog, I see Marley checking in with them with more regularity in her immediate future.

To help the guardians remember all the other dogs behavior tips I shared in this in-home Santa Monica dog training session, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below

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This post was written by: David Codr

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