dog scared by the smoke detector
DogForums.com is the premier dog Forum on the internet. Registered Users do not see the above ads.
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: dog scared by the smoke detector

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    9

    dog scared by the smoke detector

    Hello, I really love this forum, and I'm a daily lurker, but I've hardly ever posted anything. I'm having a bit of a problem and could really use some help...

    A thunderstorm went through about 45 minutes ago and the power has been going on and off. Each time the power comes back on our smoke detector gives one loud beep (apparently that's normal, it always does this). This woke us up from the couch and she was alert but not freaked out or anything; the smoke alarm has gone off plenty of times over the years, so she's heard it before. Anyway, we went upstairs to bed and were getting settled in when it happened again. Except this time, the smoke detector is Right outside the bedroom door, so it was much louder and it made me jump pretty bad. Penny (my dog) proceeded to scurry around on the bed, refusing to settle. I tried to comfort her to get her to lay back down, which in retrospect I'm sure was like saying: "being scared is good", which is not what i was going for, so I stopped that pronto and we came downstairs. I've been doing my best to ignore her and otherwise carry on as normal, in the hopes that it would help her get over it, but she's been following me around ever since -- tail tucked and looking up at the ceiling as though she's never seen a ceiling before and it has just produced the devil's spawn.

    Penny is approximately a 3.5 to 4 years old, 20 lb terrier mix, who we adopted from the shelter 2 years ago. This is not a normal response for her - if something startles her she'll usually bark (eg - when she hears fireworks she runs to the window and barks at them)

    I'm hoping once she has a good sleep, and there's some daylight out, that she'll go back to her regular goofy self...but I'm not counting on that. Any advice on what I should or shouldn't do to help get her (and me) through this?

  2. Remove Advertisements
    DogForums.com
    Advertisements
     

  3. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Houston, Tx. USA
    Posts
    155

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    I believe that Penny's initial reaction, was triggered, more from you being alarmed than the sound of the Detector. It sounds like she was confused, and didn't know what to do.

    It may be a good idea to...
    Every time the Detector goes off, call her to you, and get her to "speak".
    (or what ever command you use to get her to bark)

    With that, she knows what to do, and you have assurance of a secondary notification if you have a fire.
    You could train by just going and pressing the Test button.
    I'm not sure just how often you have False Alarms, but, I'd rather be annoyed than the alternative.
    Also, I'd do this on each Detector you have, their tones are different, and she should alarm on a variety, not just a single one.

  4. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Wales, UK
    Posts
    38

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    I would get some one to press the test button while you wait with a treat...when it beeps 'good girl' and give her a treat. Start off far away from it and then get nearer. Hopefully she'll get to the point where she hears it beep and thinks 'treat'.

    Good luck, I think you are doing the right thing my not mollycoddling her.

    A

  5. #4
    Senior Member MissMutt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    5,288

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    I tried to comfort her to get her to lay back down, which in retrospect I'm sure was like saying: "being scared is good", which is not what i was going for, so I stopped that pronto and we came downstairs.
    In retrospect, you're actually wrong! Fear cannot be reinforced because it is an emotional state, not an operant behavior (something the dog chooses to do). That said, if you start to act differently than normal during a fearful event (getting anxious yourself, "OH MY GOD BABY WHAT'S WRONG?!" type stuff), your dog will pick up on that, but simply comforting the dog shouldn't have any ill effect.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one with a dog terrified of the smoke alarm. For some reason, she does not like high-pitched noises.

    If she'll take treats while the smoke alarm is going off, that's something you could try. But I generally find that with sound phobias, they go from 0-60 instantly (they're either terribly afraid or not afraid at all). If you have a way to introduce her to similar high-pitched sounds played at an ALMOST INAUDIBLE volume and then very gradually raised, that might be something to look into.

    Despite my understanding of how fears work and how to relieve fears in dogs, high-pitched sounds like this are one thing that I just can't seem to make much progress on because of how terrified my dog is of them. I hope you have some luck.
    Sam and ARCH UCD Marge CGC MX MJB RL1X RL2X

  6. #5
    Senior Member MegaMuttMom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    3,598

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    My dog is terrified of the smoke detector and the beep of the dryer. EVERY time either goes off, he goes to the door and asks to go out. He really feels the need to escape the noise. I have stopped letting him out and just calmly tell him it's OK and go about my business. The sooner everything goes back to normal, the sooner he settles down.

    The show Modern Family had an episode where the smoke detector kept going off and it was absolute torture for Cherokee. He is fine with pots crashing to the floor, thunder, and fireworks. It's just that really high-pitched noise that sets him off. He has gotten better over the years but I expect he will always hate the noise but he is learning that he can survive it. Come to think of it, the detector hurts my ears, imagine how piercing it is to a dog. I think it might not be fair to play the noise for them and try to condition them to like it. That might be asking a little much.
    Sometimes dogs look silly when they sleep

  7. #6
    Senior Member MissMutt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    5,288

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    Well, I'm not saying to raise it to the volume that a smoke detector would be, and the pitch doesn't have to be as high, either. But some dogs, like mine, will even react if they hear the noise way off in the distance - that's something I'd like to stop. The fear can also generalize to other similar noises (sirens, whistles, etc). Though you're probably right - the fact that the noise IS uncomfortable does likely make it hard to condition.
    Sam and ARCH UCD Marge CGC MX MJB RL1X RL2X

  8. #7
    Senior Member theyogachick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    The Bluegrass State!
    Posts
    1,996

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    It's funny that you posted this--we had this happen last night as well. At about 3 AM, the one in our bedroom started and Gracie was curled in a tiny ball right by the bed...she couldn't have gotten closer if she tried. She did not like it at all.

    If it is an consolation, she is fine this morning.

    It could be that your dog was over stimulated over the holidays (Christmas, New Year's fireworks, etc.) and is simply on edge, thus making the reaction worse. I am sure she will settle down and be okay soon.
    Gracie: 3 year old old husky mix, CGC, Therapy dog with TDInc
    Garmin: 1 year old ACD/husky mix, pain in the rear
    Gizmo: RIP my sweet Shiba.

  9. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    9

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    Thank you so much for all of your advice!

    I felt bad when I thought I was encouraging her to be scared (unintentionally), so that's a relief to learn that fear isn't something I can reinforce.

    In that case, I think I'll try the option of giving her treats whenever the smoke alarm happens to go off. As mentioned, it's possible she'll be too scared to be interested in them....but she's very food motivated, so it's worth a shot! Redirect and treat is our usual fall back whenever Penny's doing something I'd rather she wasn't. Fear reactions scare me though because I'm afraid it can escalate quickly into something bigger and harder to manage. I'm just glad to know that I won't be reinforcing her fear.

    So I'm assuming the logic is: smoke alarm = treats, therefore smoke alarm = good ?
    (as opposed to my misconception, which was: smoke alarm = fear, fear = treats, therefore fear = good)

    It's nice to know that we're not alone in this, although I'm sorry that your dogs don't like the smoke detector either!

    The good news is she's bounced back okay today. I'm sure all of the excitement of Christmas and New Year's didn't help either though.

    Thanks for all of the support!

  10. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    South Dakota
    Posts
    16,941

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    Haha, my girl Penny hates the smoke detector, too! And I set it off accidentally rather frequently. . .. But really, I don't see it as a big problem. It's not like the thing goes off every day. I don't like the loud beeping, either. I think that's pretty much the point of a smoke detector.

  11. #10
    Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Wales, UK
    Posts
    38

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    good luck to both of you!

  12. #11
    Senior Member hulkamaniac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Posts
    5,997

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    Quote Originally Posted by MissMutt View Post
    In retrospect, you're actually wrong! Fear cannot be reinforced because it is an emotional state, not an operant behavior (something the dog chooses to do). That said, if you start to act differently than normal during a fearful event (getting anxious yourself, "OH MY GOD BABY WHAT'S WRONG?!" type stuff), your dog will pick up on that, but simply comforting the dog shouldn't have any ill effect.
    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it Watson who conditioned a fear of fuzzy animals into a child. This would lead me to believe that fear is indeed something that can be conditioned/re-inforced. I'm not a psych major though so please feel free to point out how laughably wrong I am. I'm sure I'm missing it somehow.

    This thread is interesting to me as early tonight I bumped the CO detector in the kitchen. It started screeching. One looked up from her food bowl and stared at it. Zero did the same thing. Then both of them went back to eating as I tried to get the dang thing to shut off.

  13. #12
    Senior Member MissMutt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    5,288

    Re: dog scared by the smoke detector

    Ok here's the short version..

    "Conditioning" (classical conditioning) and "reinforcing" (operant/instrumental conditioning) are two different things. One is concerned with emotional/physiological/associative learning, the other is concerned with voluntary, conscious learning of specific behaviors.

    Through conditioning, Little Albert, the child in Watson's experiment, came to associate any fuzzy, white animal with the loud, scary sound. This was achieved by presenting the animal directly before the loud sound. Eventually, the sight of the animal alone was enough to elicit the fearful response from Albert. The animal was therefore a conditioned stimulus that took on the response property (fear) of the unconditioned stimulus (the loud noise, which readily produced fear before the experiment). This is how fear works. Associations are built up and the animal fears things for a variety of reasons. We can change the fearful association by using exposure/flooding (repeatedly presenting the conditioned stimulus to the subject without the scary thing happening AND preventing the subject from escaping from the situation -- hard to implement, not necessarily nice or humane), through desensitization (presenting the conditioned stimulus at far enough distances/in small enough quantities so as to not elicit a fearful response), and through counterconditioning (presenting something favorable in the presence of the conditioned stimulus).

    Reinforcing fear, on the other hand, would mean that when petting or feeding a scared animal, you are teaching them that fear=good, which would make them more likely to be afraid. This is not the case (see counterconditioning). Because fear is not an operant behavior (but instead is an involuntary response), we cannot reinforce fear.

    We CAN create cues that might heighten the fear (through frantic/anxious comforting of the dog.. this becomes a cue to the dog that something IS wrong since they can pick up on our emotions/anxiety level/etc. so well), but we cannot feed a dog while they are fearful and then expect the dog to offer that fearful emotional response so that they can get reinforced.

    Here's a link, if my description wasn't clear. http://fearfuldogs.com/myth-of-reinforcing-fear/
    Last edited by MissMutt; 01-04-2011 at 11:03 PM.
    Sam and ARCH UCD Marge CGC MX MJB RL1X RL2X

  14. Remove Advertisements
    DogForums.com
    Advertisements
     

+ Reply to Thread

Quick Reply Quick Reply

  • Decrease Size
    Increase Size
  • Remove Text Formatting
  • Insert Link Insert Image Insert Video
  • Wrap [QUOTE] tags around selected text

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
SEO by vBSEO 3.5.2 ©2010, Crawlability, Inc.