Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bender's Noise Phobia

Our brief stay in Kalgoorlie-Boulder was 100% bad for Bender. We had neighbours with nasty, scrappy dogs who liked to fight him under the fence (hence he became territorial), he was attacked by two offleash dogs while he was walking minding his own business (developed on-leash reactivity), and also developed a phobia of thunder and other loud bangs as the storms were simply louder and more frequent out there.

All of these things have gotten worse as he has gotten older. His phobia of banging noises, and his on leash reactivity have led me to the decision that I can not walk him with Barbie any more. The last thing I want is for her to pick up these behaviours from him as well.

The main event that I can attribute his noise phobia to was a massive, mother-of-all thunderstorms we got caught out in when we were living in Kalgoorlie. We weren't expecting it and we were caught out a long way from home. N was walking him and ended up letting him go - he ran straight home to hide. If he is at home he isn't too bad - he just goes to his 'safe place' which is usually my bed. He doesn't shake or pant, justs tucks his ears back and his tail down. He does cope, as long as he can go to his safe space. We have never mollycoddled him when he has reacted to storms, but I am afraid that very first walk where he was allowed to run home at his own pace has had a lasting effect.

On walks, he has degenerated to the point that a car backfiring some distance away makes him into a pulling freight train. He gets down low and exudes all his force (which is quite considerable) to pull me home as quickly as possible. He refuses treats but does obey the 'sit' command. Last night he reacted to something I did not even hear and did not recover from it at all for half of our walk. My quads are killing me from resisting him pulling me along the road. It was a real struggle to hold on to him and to also keep an eye on Barbie, who was for the most part, walking at a loose heel next to me. It was OK when it was just thunderstorms and fireworks (though there are so many fireworks displays within hearing distance from our house that we were caught out by them a few times), but it is impossible to predict and avoid a car backfiring within 10kms of the house.

Leash reactivity I can work on, but this extreme sensitivity to percussive noises is something I find hard. We have worked a bit on conditioning at home and he has improved a bit - but he has only degenerated on leash walks. If he is off leash his only focus is his ball and being near a shooting range doesn't even register with him. I guess we will have to consider medicating him. I am also considering trying out 'mutt muffs' for him - they are sound blocking earphones for dogs, which I have seen on Never Say Never Greyhounds, though they didn't work for Reagan.

We shall see how we go, I guess.
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