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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi everyone,

So Galahad has always been very alert to noises. He's had a few incidents with loud noises that have made him worse though we continue to try to desensitize him to them. Recently he has had another bad experience with fireworks which has put him on edge around any strange noises and it is making walks difficult and stressful.

What happened in the past:

1. When he was a few months old he ran into a table top that was propped up against a wall. It fell over towards him and made a loud bang. I don't think it actually hit him but I wasn't there at the time. He was very shaken after that and didn't want to go near that area for a long time though he is fine with it now after lots of treats and positive associations with the area.
2. Around 4 months we had him in a puppy class. He was a little timid of other dogs at the time so during play time after class we put him in a little seperate area they have for small dogs. There was some agility training equipment in this area as well but mostly stored up against the wall. He climbed up onto the teeter totter and it slammed down with him on it again making a loud bang. This really startled him but he was fine with going back in that area.
3. Later in that same class while were doing his "final exam" the shoemaker next door to our training facility started hammering very loudly which spooked him so much we had to stop half way through.
4. When he was around 6 months it was a few nights before Halloween and we were taking him for a walk. We live in a very urban area but with lots of parks and apartment buildings. We were walking past a park when some people started setting off fireworks. Gally immediately started running on his leash, trying to get away.
5. Anytime he hears loud bangs that sound like fireworks he will go into flight mode and keep trying to run as fast as he can on his leash, attempting to drag us with him though we wont let him. He ends up choking and sputtering at the end of the leash. Any other time he is great at loose leash walking so we've had him on a martingale for walks. We have an easy walk harness but he doesn't fit it properly anymore, the corgi build doesn't really work well with the design.
6. We unfortunately ran into people setting off fireworks in the park on our walk last week. This is ILLEGAL here anytime other than Halloween night or new years night. He got very spooked and I couldn't snap him out of it. Since then he has been overly edgy on walks and any little noise will set him off running.

What we've been doing to help desensitize him:
1. When we're on a walk anytime I hear a loud bang I automatically drop treats on the ground for him. This works usually and he doesn't get into fear flight mode. BUT this only works if I do it right away before he has time to process what he's hearing and only if he doesn't see the fireworks as well. This was doing really well and he was calming down almost instantly until we saw fireworks again recently on a walk.
2. If I can't get him calm right away I sit down with him and start working on some training. This works 80% of the time and I think that's a good sign that he will still listen even when he is in this "mode". As long as it's not real fireworks this gets him calmed down most of the time and we can continue walking. Unfortunately, since the most recent incident this hasn't been working well.
3. Thundershirt, we have one and it works great for when we're inside and there are thunderstorms or fireworks but when we run into loud noises on a walk I don't have it with me.
4. Similar to 1, when he becomes scared of anything else I try to build a positive association with it right away. So if we see a bag flying in the breeze he might get weary of it and I will toss treats at it and he calms down pretty fast. He's very food motivated.

Questions:
Is there anything else we can be doing to get him over his fears?
Is there something else I can do in the moment while we're on a walk if he becomes scared?

We are going to buy some thunder/fireworks CDs to play quietly in the background at home to help build positive associations with the sounds. I realize this will take some time though and doesn't work with every dog.

Update: Gally is doing a lot better with his noise fears lately. We have tried a lot of things with varying success. I wrote a post on Noise Phobia Treatments for Dogs to share my experiences.
 

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Sound sensitivity is genetic, next to impossible to change the genetic makeup of the dog. Best thing is to know it and live with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I realize he will always be sound sensitive but I think there is probably a way to shape his response to loud sounds.
 

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I would continue doing the positive associations with the loud noises. Definitely try the thunder CDs, maybe agility trial CDs, or gunshot CDs. In fact, you could probably YouTube those things and more (revving motorcycles, clapping, explosions, etc) for free. Start with low volume and use awesome treats.

Be aware that your behavior to loud noises can affect him too. For example, if you hear a loud noise and are immediately stressed out wondering if he'll react, he may react more just because you are so stressed about it too. Be matter of fact. Like, "What was that?!" in an exciting, up voice and hand him lots of treats while talking very happy "that was really loud, I wonder what those people were doing?!"

Of course, there is the flip side where you ignore the dog completely and don't feed into his fear response at all. But, that depends more on the dog's personality I think. Maybe try not doing anything and see what happens. Pretend like nothing happened at all. Not sure if you have done that yet.

When a dog has lost focus and zoned out, asking for very strong behaviors that he knows can help a dog focus on something else and "snap out of it". So, if he gets startled, hold out your palm and asks for touches if he knows how to do that. It lets the dog stop thinking about the scary noise and focus on something he knows how to do that has always had a really rewarding history for him.

Try that at home. Play a loud noise on a low volume and if he gets spooked, try doing some hand targeting or ask for a sit or down. Maybe associate startling things with fun, rewarding training sessions.
 

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Part of what we've been doing with Ozzie and his noise sensitivity is setting up these situations. We go into the backyard with some stinky, stinky tripe, a clicker, and Ozzie leashed. One of us will hold onto Oz to click and treat calm reactions while the other one is dropping and throwing things(for example, we dropped the recycle bin, kicked it, tossed things into it, etc.).

The entire time we're dishing out rewards as if he's just won the doggie lottery. I also think that it helps him to be able to see where the noise is coming from.

You could try the same thing but I would be careful not to set him back or traumatize him in the process. Have the noise maker keep a good distance and start out with less frightening noises.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks so much for the reply Nil.

I have read about ignoring him and the noise as if nothing happened and I know he will feed off my response and energy. I have tried it once or twice but I find it really hard to not automatically look to see how he's doing and that probably doesn't help him at all. I will try to be totally unfazed by any noises myself and just continue on as if nothing happened and see how he responds. I read that even looking at him to see if he is reacting can make it worse. We'll see what happens.

He does know touch and he actually really loves playing the "touch game." Usually when he's getting zoned out I ask for sits and shake a paws since they're pretty easy but I think I will try doing touch next time if he gets to that point because he really enjoys that "game".

I'm going to look into free sound tapes online. I think in the long run we've been doing a good job at desensitizing him. He was doing really well with the positive associations of getting treats when we heard a loud noise and was hardly reacting anymore. Unfortunately, seeing and hearing fireworks going off right in front of him set our hard work back a lot. I think I'm just frustrated to have to go back so many steps but I know it's possible to get back to where we were before and hopefully one day get him to the point where he is unfazed by fireworks or at least not go into automatic flight mode.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the suggestion Tofu. I think that would be a good compliment exercise to listening to the CDs. Are there specific calm behaviours/reactions you look for while doing this? Sometimes I think he has calmed down but then as soon as we start walking again he starts to go back into panic mode so I think maybe I am not the best judge of calmness.
 

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I would also keep a log of his recovery time, treats you used, exercise he got that day, how he reacted to a noise, distances you were making the noises, what kind of noise, etc. It would help you track his progress and see if there was something in particular he was scared of (maybe loud booms affect him more than a can of pennies). You could also use it to tailor a specific "recovery plan" in the event he is spooked by a loud noise in the environment you can't control. Airports may be something to take him too. They usually have outside areas where you can sit and watch plans.

Kikopup did a video about this too that might help with some ideas: Counter Conditioning
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Good idea with the log. I think I will start that right away.

Great video too. I think I have watched it before but that was before Gally started having problems so I didn't pay too much attention. Kikopup as usual has great tips. Thanks for reminding me about that video!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Small update:

We just went for a before bed time walk. We met two dogs I'd never seen before and one started barking at Gally which spooked him (he is usually great with other dogs though not fond of barky ones, seems anything unusual will set him off atm). I was trying very hard to give no attention and not look at Gally but it didn't seem to have any affect, he started bolting to the end of the leash to get away. My partner was also with us so I'm not sure if he was ignoring the dog as well though I instructed him that we were going to try this method before we headed out. Will try again on my own to see if there is any difference.

On the positive side, after he got scared I did some touch work with him and he managed to calm down enough to not try to drag me down the street though he was walking at a quicker pace than normal but responded when I called him back and I reward him for a few moments of loose leash walking. I kept him occupied with some walking games, we did touch and spinning while we walked to keep him focused and he seemed to be pretty loose by the time we made it back home and was seemingly enjoying the games.
 

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Thanks for the suggestion Tofu. I think that would be a good compliment exercise to listening to the CDs. Are there specific calm behaviours/reactions you look for while doing this? Sometimes I think he has calmed down but then as soon as we start walking again he starts to go back into panic mode so I think maybe I am not the best judge of calmness.
I started out with the criteria that anything Oz did that was NOT barking or trying to bolt was rewarded. He could be sniffing the ground, staring at the can of tripe, watching the origin of the noises, etc. as long as he didn't try to bolt. We graduated from that into the look at that game. I can't really gage how much the Thundershirt helps him.

You can look for and reward calming signals too. Things like a look away, yawning, shaking it off, sniffing the ground, etc. Maybe it's just my imagination but it seems like the calming signals I mentioned do a better job of calming the dog sending them than other signals. For example, if something really spooks Oz and he's gunnin' for home(safety!) and he shakes it off, I'll catch that and try to reward it. Once he shakes it off, it's like nothing ever happened.

We also started keeping a dog log recently so I second that suggestion. I'm hoping it'll help with all of the dogs and their...quirks.

Now onto the barking dog incident you had today...
There's a method that is basically BAT. I think its acronym might be CAT. I'm not sure and I don't know if you can find it on Ahimsa Dog Training or not. Since Gally wants to get far, far away from the barking dog you can plant you feet and wait for the behavior you want or try to prompt it. It's up to you to decide what behavior gets him freedom from the scary thing. It could be a particular calming signal, any calming signal, sit with attention on you, glance calmly at the scary thing, etc. When he stops trying to bolt and does one(or none) of the things I mentioned, give a verbal reward marker and get the heck away from the scary thing.

I can't find a link right now but if I do, I'll post it. Ahimsa dog training has a youtube channel. It might help to watch some of their BAT videos.
 

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Have you looked into thundershirts? I haven't progressed through this thread, so it may have already been suggested.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Thanks for the tips Tofu. I will definitely check out the video as well.

We have a Thundershirt and it works great indoors but I don't take it on walks. I think because of how he's built he would end up peeing on it if I put it on him during a walk and I'm afraid he'd get overheated as well. I was thinking of maybe getting him a snug fit jacket for walks that might do something similar to the Thundershirt.
 

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Thanks for the tips Tofu. I will definitely check out the video as well.

We have a Thundershirt and it works great indoors but I don't take it on walks. I think because of how he's built he would end up peeing on it if I put it on him during a walk and I'm afraid he'd get overheated as well. I was thinking of maybe getting him a snug fit jacket for walks that might do something similar to the Thundershirt.
You can always do a TTouch bodywrap (probably a half wrap) http://www.crvetcenter.com/ttouch.php. Though they look kind of silly and people will ask what is wrong with your dog. In pre-thundershirt days, I tie dyed them so they would look more cheery and less medical
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I think we have some ace bandage at home so maybe I will try that out before our evening walk. Worth a shot anyway.

We're also looking at getting a custom fit harness made for him that has a similar gentle pressure approach.
 
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