Fear of thunder, fireworks, wind and other everyday noises are common fears for dogs of all sizes and breeds. These auditory fears can be manifested as simple nervous behavior or as full-blown panic leading dogs to jump over high fences, through glass windows or simply run away. The training described below focuses on the fear of thunder but can be used to alter the behavior caused by your dog’s auditory fears.
To begin this training, download audio tracks of thunder (or fireworks, wind or other cause of your dog’s auditory fear). Depending on your dog’s level of training, send the dog to his bed or lure him there with treats. Tell your dog to “Relax” while you positively reinforce him being on his bed. While you calmly yet deliberately stroke your Dog’s back, continue to repeat the “Relax” command. Slowly ease into the next step as your dog becomes increasingly comfortable being on the bed.
Begin playing the audio track you have downloaded at a low volume once you have your dog comfortably on his bed. Continue to reinforce the “Relax” command while you continue to pet your dog’s back using long, slow, deliberate strokes. Slowly over time (use 2 weeks as a general guide), increase the volume as your dog tolerates hearing the audio track.
In the event your dog panics or shows signs of stress (licking the muzzle, panting, drooling or nose dripping), decrease the volume. If your dog remains on the bed, continue to reinforce the “Relax” command while you stroke your dog’s back. If your dog leaves his bed, lure or command him back to the bed without the audio track playing and reinforce the “Relax” command. Over several days begin to increase the volume of the audio track again.
If you reach a point where your dog is having trouble staying on the bed with only the “Relax” command, add a leash to your training sessions. Using light leash pressure, keep your dog on the bed when the audio track begins to overwhelm him. You will need to progress to a point where your dog can tolerate the audio track at a high volume without using the leash to compel him to stay on the bed.
In the event your dog is still unable to tolerate the increased volume of the audio track, consider purchasing and using a thunder shirt or other anxiety wrap. (There are several models available on the Internet or at your local pet shop).
Take several days off in the event your dog becomes overly panicked. Reduce the volume of your audio track by 50% when you resume your training. In order to avoid overwhelming your dog, keep your training sessions short; no longer than 5-10 minutes. Consistent training over several days and weeks will likely increase your success.
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