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Discussion Starter #1
Hi All,
I am hoping to get some advice from experienced St Bernard owners. I have had dogs my whole life and both my wife and I put a lot of time training them and socialising them etc. Our experience is mostly with collies. We lost our last dog a few months back and were offered a 4 y.o. St Bernard a few weeks ago. We took her home and for 99% of the time she is fantastic and seems to exhibit all the behaviours we would expect from the breed.
The previous owner was a breeder (of good repute), who had to give her up due to her own failing health. Bella (our new dog) has been great around our 3 kids, but seems to react strongly towards high pitched sounds made by our kids (e.g. if one of my girls squeals or sings in a silly way etc). Bella will bark and act aggressively. The first time she did this, she actually nipped my daughter in the leg (nothing more serious than a pinch). She has done this maybe 4 times in the last 2 weeks but without any biting/nipping and each time triggered by high pitch vocals from one of my kids.
We believe that she is probably not that socialised around kids, but at the same time this also seems like a strange trigger. She is loving and affectionate in all other ways. So my questions are:
  1. Is this breed susceptible (more than other dog breeds) to high pitched vocals/noises? (probably a silly question but worth asking)
  2. What may be the best way to train her not to react to such triggers?
Thanks for any advice!
//Red
263798
 

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The first thing I'd do is talk to a vet about this quirk, and have him check to make sure she's not experiencing any pain that might make her crankier and more inclined to lash out. Especially if she hasn't had a vet check already, always a good idea when you bring a new dog into your house. I'd also reach out to the breeder and see if they've noticed this behavior with her. Both of these will give you an idea of if it's normal for her, a temporary issue potentially caused by the stress of the move, or something that needs more immediate and direct action.

Whatever the answer, for now I'd have a chat with the kids and make sure they understand that she's still settling in and not used to children, so they need to help her feel comfortable by staying calmer and gentler around her for a while. When you can't directly supervise, there should be a barrier like a baby gate, pen, or door between her and the kids, just because she's so large that even a warning nip can go very badly very quickly, especially if she happens to make contact with someone's face. Not saying she's a dangerous dog, just that the situation needs some reasonable precautions because you all aren't used to each other yet and she's already shown some nipping behavior.

Noise sensitivity is definitely something some dogs struggle with, and there are ways to improve it, but I'd rule out medical causes and stress first before jumping into that.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hi!
We had a vet check up and she is perfectly healthy with no sign of pain or other physical discomfort. I do think that stress of a new environment was initially a factor but after more than 2 weeks she now seems very well settled.
I think that she may just need some training not to react to the noises. I am not at all concerned for my kids safety as they are very used to being around dogs and they know how to control the situation when she does bark.
May this point I can only assume that she is connecting the noise with a previous trauma/bad experience and we will need to work with that.
Many thanks for the advice and response :)

The first thing I'd do is talk to a vet about this quirk, and have him check to make sure she's not experiencing any pain that might make her crankier and more inclined to lash out. Especially if she hasn't had a vet check already, always a good idea when you bring a new dog into your house. I'd also reach out to the breeder and see if they've noticed this behavior with her. Both of these will give you an idea of if it's normal for her, a temporary issue potentially caused by the stress of the move, or something that needs more immediate and direct action.

Whatever the answer, for now I'd have a chat with the kids and make sure they understand that she's still settling in and not used to children, so they need to help her feel comfortable by staying calmer and gentler around her for a while. When you can't directly supervise, there should be a barrier like a baby gate, pen, or door between her and the kids, just because she's so large that even a warning nip can go very badly very quickly, especially if she happens to make contact with someone's face. Not saying she's a dangerous dog, just that the situation needs some reasonable precautions because you all aren't used to each other yet and she's already shown some nipping behavior.

Noise sensitivity is definitely something some dogs struggle with, and there are ways to improve it, but I'd rule out medical causes and stress first before jumping into that.
 

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Sound sensitivities are one of those things often not connected to a traumatic event. Some dogs weren't exposed to sounds enough as puppies, others are just plain more sensitive than others. Kind of like how someone doesn't need to have fallen from anything to be scared of heights. I'd start with this video:


Kikopup is a great resource for a lot of basic things. You may also get some good tips from this podcast (or the transcript, if you prefer reading):


The woman being interviewed, Amy Cook, actually runs a whole class about handling noise sensitivity on the Fenzi Dog Sport Academy. It's not one of the courses offered currently, but if you like what you hear and feel you need some more help, it could be worth looking into next time it shows up on the roster.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That is awesome, many thanks for the info links!!

Sound sensitivities are one of those things often not connected to a traumatic event. Some dogs weren't exposed to sounds enough as puppies, others are just plain more sensitive than others. Kind of like how someone doesn't need to have fallen from anything to be scared of heights. I'd start with this video:


Kikopup is a great resource for a lot of basic things. You may also get some good tips from this podcast (or the transcript, if you prefer reading):


The woman being interviewed, Amy Cook, actually runs a whole class about handling noise sensitivity on the Fenzi Dog Sport Academy. It's not one of the courses offered currently, but if you like what you hear and feel you need some more help, it could be worth looking into next time it shows up on the roster.
 
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