Changes: the lyrics to the wonderful and timeless classic by David Bowie keep popping into my head. Really the lyrics have little to do with the changes that took place at our south of the Bohemia home in Cecil County MD, but ch-ch-ch-ch-changes have occurred.(You can hum along if you like.) Change is disturbing to timid fearful and anxious dogs. Changes such as: invasion of strangely clad tool carrying strangers, noise of loud construction, banging saws and whining drills. These can be difficult times for noise phobic dogs.
Recent changes in our own household, as I typed, included: carpet being ripped up, furniture shoved around, dog beds being moved and strangers noisily installing new laminate flooring. And the dogs really did look confused by the absence of furniture and carpet, lacking an accustomed plush surface to lay upon.
The night prior to installation Doobie looked forlorn in his usual middle of the living room spot, looked quite bewildered in a room devoid of furnishing or comfort. However, he settled down to sleep contentedly when I brought out his accustomed dog bed. Doobie, upon liberation from a W.VA puppy mill two years ago by Lab Rescue was afraid of everything, not least the sound of drills and vacuums. Today he is just fine having been gradually desensitized to that sound.
Below, the proof is in the pudding as Doobie and Bridget relax in my upstairs office, apparently unconcerned by the noise of drills hammers and vacuums below. I made my decision to leave Doobie at home during installation based on his recovery from his fears. Even the young worker remarked upon the calm behavior of the dogs.
Before leaving your dog home while noisy and unaccustomed work is being done, consider the possibility of causing a traumatic experience for a noise phobic dog. Following are some things to consider if your dog:
- Constantly alerts to environmental noises.
- Startles easily when hearing strange or loud sounds.
- Takes a long time to recover from above.
- Will not settle or relax in the presence of strange noises.
- Shakes runs and hides when hearing loud noises.
- Has been recently rescued and you are not sure of their background.
- Has a history of separation anxiety (often paired with noise phobia).
As my English lab Talley meets four of the above criteria, I decided she would visit a well known friend in a quiet environment during the disturbances to the doggy environments. Your dog may thank you if you make a similar decision. One significant traumatic experience can generalize outward to different environmental triggers. Once these patterns of behavior begin, the undoing is much longer than the doing.
For information on helping dogs phobic to specific noises, go to Terry Ryan Sound CDs for sound specific CD`s that teaches gradual acceptance as a normal background noise instead of a horror inducing event. I strongly recommend consultation with a dog training behavior specialist, who can effect change using current non-aversive training methods. Prevent trauma from occurring in the first place, but when necessary, institute ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. In a future article I will write more specifically about working with noise phobic dogs.
Until next time, Leslie Fisher PMCT CPDT-KA
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