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Discussion Starter #1
As many of you know I'm going through a rough spot with Marge in terms of fear, especially fear of noises. I am still waiting to speak with my vet, but in the meantime (and since I know he'll have absolutely no idea about the answer to this question) I wanted to bring this up.

Okay. When Marge gets scared, she hides. Usually under my sister's desk. Whenever I can, especially with thunder, I go into my counterconditioning ritual, where thunder boom = treat jackpot. Unfortunately with fireworks this cannot be done, since they usually go off in no distinct pattern.

However, something I've done a couple of times that seemed to produce good results is this.

After the worst is over, be it fireworks, thunder, etc, and Marge is still under the desk, I take out my bag of kibble and basically drop a few just out of her reach. She'll then reposition herself, in anticipation of me dropping the next piece. Ie., slightly farther out of the desk, not all the way curled in the back shaking. After a couple of repetitions, I have kibble basically sliding across the floor like tiny hockey pucks, with a dog hot on it's trail. After she gets the piece, she automatically diverts back to me and I then fling another piece. Hope I'm doing a reasonable job of explaining it.

Doing this with her, I figure it...

a) Gets her out of hiding and gets her moving, which might lead to the release of feel-good endorphins
b) Uses the principles of classical conditioning to pair the scary stimulus with something good
c) Directs her attention AWAY from the scary noise and on to the good food
d) Seems to calm her down some, despite all of the movement.. she gives me all of her attention, eyes the kibble and waits for me to throw it. It's basically turned into a game.

Has anyone ever tried anything like this?

Is there a chance of it backfiring and making her more anxious? If she continues doing well with it inside, I just might attempt it outside on the 20' leash.. could be something good to add to the behavior management/modification arsenal.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
No one has any thoughts? Come on, I know you behavior gurus are lurking.. ;)
 

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We're in the midst of some thunderboomies right at this minute...

Yes, kibble from the sky is a great thing...for all the reasons you mentioned. I'm sure you could adapt this to outdoors but keep in mind you don't want her to eat things that are just laying around so you may have to look at putting some sort of cue on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hm, true. I will need to put a cue to this.. I have ben saying Go Get It, but that's one of those phrases that I use far too much.. for chasing birds (as a distraction mechanism), for fetching, for eating the kibble off the floor.. :eek: Look At That (from Control Unleashed) and Go Get It also sound very similar, so alot of times I'll tell her Look at That and she'll sniff the ground instead. Silly Marge.

What I was asking about, really, is if it's alright that she's moving so much.. don't want to foster an attitude of frenziedness.. I mean I literally have her turning on a dime and speeding off to go get the treats, rather than just sitting there and classically conditioning the old-fashioned way. She tends to get her game face on when we do it. Takes it very seriously! :p
 

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Well, I know of several people who play their dog's fave game during thunderstorms..whether that is "go find it", "fetch" or "tug"..if it's something that keeps the dogs mind off the boomies..so I would think it's not much of an issue...
 

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Sounds like you're doing a fine job to me.

It might be worth the investment for you to purchase a few different "Sounds Good" CDs and use them to work towards desensitizing her to various noises. They come in a variety of sounds...fireworks, babies, trucks/traffic, thunderstorms, ect. You start out with the volume low and gradually increase it. There are instructions at the begining of each CD too. I've used them on puppies and found them very useful.

http://www.legacycanine.com/store/index.html
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thing is, she knows the difference between the TV and real life. Maybe it would be different because it'd be the same exact sounds, but even having the TV on very loud during an action movie or something doesn't faze her at all. Will look into it though :)
 

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Another thing, for fireworks or thunder, or any other noises, you should probably have a leash ready, and not let her hide. If you are giving her the jackpot when she is under the desk, or under anything else, you are rewarding her for being under the desk and she will go there whenever she hears the thunder or fireworks, even if you think you are trying to lure her out from under the desk. If the weather is getting bad and you think it might just thunder, then try tethering her to you, and if you hear a boom, drop a handful of goodies in front of her. And I don't mean just 2 or 3 pieces. Make it worth it. And then act calm yourself, might even give a yawn as well, it's another calming signal you can use to help.

Okay. When Marge gets scared, she hides. Usually under my sister's desk. Whenever I can, especially with thunder, I go into my counterconditioning ritual, where thunder boom = treat jackpot. Unfortunately with fireworks this cannot be done, since they usually go off in no distinct pattern.
Fireworks is just as random as thunder. If it's coming up on a time where there's fireworks, like the 4th of July, have lots of treats ready, and maybe even the tether, and tether her to you. My dogs don't have any issues with thunder, and very little with fireworks, but Chloe now thinks there's ghosts in my trees outside ever since the fireworks this year, lol. Everytime I let them out to go potty, Chloe charges at the trees, barking, and tries to climb the trees, lol. After about 2 minutes, she's fine and no longer doing it, lol. And it doesn't matter if it's daytime or night, lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I disagree that fireworks and thunder are equally random, as you can tell most of the time if a storm may be coming, and if there's one boom of thunder, there's very likely to be another. The fire works around here go like this.. one at 12:30 PM on a Sunday, none until two days later when some jackass kid sets one off at night.. totally random and unpredictable.

I actually wanted to come back and update to let everyone know I'm having great success with throwing kibble all over the place. It's been storming here all day and she only hid during one really loud bang. Otherwise she was out, stalking the treats as I threw them. She does a very good BC impression with her stare. lol
 

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MissMutt, wouldn't this seem to fall under operant conditioning? You're basically pairing an incompatible behavior with the scary thing. Therefore, it does two things...1) takes her mind off it and 2) makes the scary thing fun. I think it's a fabulous idea! Glad it's working so well!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Pairing two incompatible things is classical conditioning. You hear thunder, you get a treat. So thunder is no longer scary. She is *fabulous* right now.. even went out to pee amidst the rumbles. Only the really loud crashes are bothering her.

Taking her mind off it is huge, you're right.. because I'm not forcing her to ignore it or anything.. she is making the conscious choice to focus on the food instead of the thunder.

Operant would be, sit and let that scary person pet you, so that you can get a reward afterwards for sitting. In my experience, it doesn't change the association as solidly as classical conditioning does.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Yeah, they're tough. I think alot of things fall in between, actually.. or combine both..

Not to get too off topic (you know I can't resist the fearful dog subject :D) But think of the Look at That game from Control Unleashed. You're putting a behavior on cue that is to be rewarded (looking at a trigger) BUT because the dog is getting treated for looking at that trigger, the association is changing as well. Classical and operant together! Woo!
 
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