Using Some Counterconditioning to Help a Dog Who Gets Spooked By Unexpected Sounds

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 3, 2020

For this Omaha dog training session we used counterconditioning to help 10 year-old Husky mix Quorra who has attacked her roomie, 12 year-old Beagle Dio (not pictured) who has a demand barking problem.

Although the fights have been infrequent over the years, they have gotten more intense each time.

Dio has such a demand barking problem, its quite clear that his behavior was adding to the stress. The first time I stopped petting him, he demand barked for 10 minutes. Later in the session, I forgot this and petted him again instictivly and he repeated his demand barking again. I watched as Quorra’s body tensed up, her mouth got small, ears pinned back accompanied with pacing and heavy breathing; all classic signs of stesss in dogs.

I suggested the guardian put Dio in another room to help him settle down and help Quorra relax. Unfortunately, we didnt get a chance to bring him back out to work on his demand barking problem. I have added a few tips to help with that problem at the end of this case study.

Quorra has benefited from behavior medication, but Laura suggested the guardians contact thier vet to inquire about adjusting the dosage since the meds have helped. Finding the right doseage sometimes takes a ew adjustments.

Whenever you have an anxious or fearful dog, identifying the triggers (things the dog is reacting to) and helping the dog see and relate to them as positives is very important. I decided to use some counterconditioning to help the dog stop getting startled or scared at unexpected sounds. You can learn how to use this easy method to stop a dog from getting scared when unexpected sounds occur.

I love helping dogs who are fearful of sounds as these triggers ofen happen multiple times a day, causing the dog to get scared, anxious or stressed out. That isnt a great quality of life which is why this simple way to stop a dog from fearing sounds is a favorite of mine. I know we are making a HUGE improvment in the dog’s life.

If the guardian can make a list of all the sound triggers that scare the dog, she can systematically practice them all until the dog is no longer reactive or fearful when she hears unexpected sounds. This is an easy way to stop a dog from fearing sounds. Anyone can do it, even if you are not a professional Husky dog trainer.

There are a few things the guardian can do help Dio with his demand barking. These should be followed consistently to accellerate the process and should only proceed if the dog complies the first time. If Dio doesnt follow the prompts within 2 seconds, he should not be rewarded.

  • Start asking Dio to sit or lay down or target her hand before she pets him. If he doesn’t comply, she should refrain from asking again or petting him. From now on, Dio needs to pay for his pets and attention with a sit, target or down.
  • Ask Dio for a sit or down before inviting him up on the couch. No sit, no couch.
  • If the guardian can identify the times and scenarios where Dio demand barks, she should try to distract him with a puzzle or some other stimulating activity (lick mat, kong, scent games, etc) before he gets a chance to start.
  • Avoid verbally disagreeing with Dio as any attention will be rewarding and validating to the dog.
  • As a last resort, if Dio starts to bark to protest, the guardian should get up and leave the room with Quorra, closing the door behind them. Wait for Dio to stop barking for a few seconds before returning.

Now Id also like to see the guardian having the dogs practice being together in positive ways. Since there have been fights over items, the dogs dont have much practice being together in shared enjoyable activities. Id liek to see the guardian get an x pen so the dogs can practice being in the room together or a baby gate so the dogs can be in opposite rooms enjoying a nice chew.

During this shared time, its super important the dogs arent targeting each other with stares, growls, stiffness, etc. Te idea is to help the dogs doing something they both enjoy, near one another, in a totally positive way. This is the path to getting the dogs back together with items on a regular basis. But we need a good few months of positive practice before taking any big steps.

We covered so much in this in home Omaha dog behavior training session that the guardian was concerned that she wouldnt remember it all. To help her with that, I recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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