Helping a Trio of Sound Sensative Dogs with Some Counterconditioning

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 31, 2020

For this Omaha dog training session we were called in to help a trio of dogs; 5 year-old Beagle mix Simon (pictured), 2 year-old Pit mix Oreo and 1 year-old Lab Abby who are anxious around new people and reactive to unknown sounds.

Knowing the dogs were anxious and sometimes reactive to unknown people, I called ahead to have the guardians bring the dogs out one at a time to meet us outside. As Omaha’s resident dog behavior expert, I have found that meeting scared dogs outside is a great way to set them up for a successful encounter.

Simon’s greeting went best, barking a bit to start, but eventually eating treats out of Laura and my hands. Oreo did ok at first, but after sniffing me while I remained totally still, lunged at me before we walked a bit together. Abby was by far the most fearful, barking to get us ot move away. She was too worked up to take treats and couldnt get closer than 10 feet without becoming overwhelmed by fear, stress and anxiety.

We sat down with the humans apart from the dogs as they were too reactive to bennefit from being with us. We recommended that the family talk to the Veternary Behaviorist group we coordinate with to inquire about putting two of the dogs on medication to help ease their stress levels while implmenting a rehabilitation plan.

One thing we went over was how to train the dogs to go to a dog bed. Giving an anxious dog direction and a safe place to go is always advisable. You can learn how to train a dog to go to a dog bed, or multiple dog beds, on command by watching the free positive dog training video below.

Id like to see the guardians practicing this technique with all the dogs separately with multiple dog beds in different locations. This will give the family the ability to direct the dogs to differnet locations on command; helping them move away when there are things they dont like or are afraid of.

When meeting them, I could see that the dogs were all sound sensative to different degrees. Anytime you are trying to help a fearful dog, its important to remove or reduce all the things that contribute to those fears. Dogs who are frightened by sounds often face a stressful world as they are triggered over and over, every day.

Ive found one of the best ways to help a dog who is anxious around unknown sounds is through counterconditioning. Counterconditioning a dog for sounds involves playing the sound at a low volume, then creating a positive experience so the dog starts associating the two. You can learn how to help a dog who gets scared of sounds with counterconditioning by watching the video below.

They key to this secret of helping dogs get over fear of sounds is the dog can’t react when you practice. If that happens, it stops the process from helping. So it will be very important to not go too fast with each trigger sound. If the guardians make a list of all the sounds the dogs are anxious of, that will help them identify all the triggers. That will make it easier to practice this method to stop the dogs from being scared of sounds. It will take a little work, but its easy work and the benefits will be huge for these anxious dogs.

Since Oreo and Abby were so fearfully stressed, we would like to have the guardians speak with the veternary behaviorists and start a medication treatment program before we return to help the dogs with some of their other fears and behavior problems.

To help the family remember all the tips we shared in this in home Omaha dog behavior session, we recored 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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