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Desensitizing to Fireworks -- RECOMMENDATIONS NEEDED!

Discussion in 'Gundog Training, Fieldwork, & Field Trials' started by MJM032, Mar 10, 2018.

  1. MJM032

    MJM032 Registered Users

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    Hello,
    I adopted my lab/hound mix when she was around 2 years old. She wasn't sensitized or socialized prior to me getting her. Over the years her reaction to fireworks & loud "bangs" has gotten worse and worse. She now will run away from the noise and hide. She shakes, her pupils dilate. She will refuse to eat or drink or go outside to go to the bathroom. Does anyone have any recommendations on how to slowly desensitize her fireworks and loud "bangs?"

    Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

    Thank you!
     
  2. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Registered Users

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    The dogs trust website has some good ideas and they used to have a download CD of noises to help desensitise your dog.
     
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  3. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    I have a noise phobic Lab. She was incapable of responding to counter-conditioning with even the quietest of her trigger noises. Like your dog, she got progressively worse over time. She was habituated to noises as a youngster, but it didn't stop her fear developing. I've read a lot about this subject and found some interesting stuff about genetic pre-disposition. The first step for Willow was medication, when it was obvious that I could do nothing without. I had already tried the Adaptil diffusers and all the rest of the standard options. The medication lowered her trigger point to the level I could start working on her fears. You know one thing that helped us? Cider :D

    She started to love chasing the cork from the cider bottle when it popped, so she got a great positive association with the pop. A girl that would cringe and hide if a party popper went off 100m away suddenly started getting hugely excited by the sight of a cider or cava bottle, even though it predicted a bang. I told my vet - he told me we had to open a bottle every day. Doctor's orders! :D

    From there, I moved to distant party poppers predicting the throw of a ball, and gradually bringing the party popper closer. Top tip: remove the confetti from the popper before firing, or you have a hell of a mess to clear up! Then (because I do gundog training and so have a dummy launcher), used an attachment for that which deadens the noise a bit and throws tennis balls rather than training dummies - again at a distance to start with. Eventually, we built up to the dummy launcher itself, which fires a .22 calibre shell. She is now happy to have that going off right next to her. This was a slow process and none of it would have been possible without the medication.

    We're not out of the woods yet - she is still fearful of some noises, such as avalanche blasting. But we're making progress. Slowly, slowly.

    Try the Dogs Trust noises, there are some excellent ones. For us, they were no help because Willow wouldn't react to them. It appears that, for her, it's the physical implications of a booming or cracking noise that affect her most, and you can't get that from a DVD. But they do help lots of noise-sensitive dogs, so it's worth a try. Follow the recommendation to always keep it at a level where the dog doesn't react. I keep this quote from behaviourist Hannah Brannigan on hand because I find it really useful to keep in mind:
    "In all cases, the real solution is to find a way to break down the event or stimulus that is setting off the bad feelings, and find a version of it that is neutral. Find that spot. Get ahead of when the worry actually starts. And then pair that pre-worry moment with something really good." (https://wonderpupstraining.com/articles/classical-conditioning-is-a-one-way-street/)
     
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  4. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog Forum Supporter

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    Strangely enough, cider helps MY reactivity as well. :p

    But to be serious, I really like this idea and very impressive that you've worked up to the dummy launcher. As I've mentioned before, gunshot/fireworks was Brogan's Achilles Heel and something that I always felt very badly that I wasn't able to help him with. I follow your posts on Willow with great interest because it gives me hope (and more importantly knowledge) that if I got another noise-reactive dog as my own or foster that I may be able to a better job to help him.
     
  5. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    It's hard. Really hard. I have the utmost sympathy for anyone with a phobic dog, it's draining and frustrating and heart-wrenching. You know I've said how I've been in tears because of it - and I don't cry. You feel so helpless. I just keep consuming information about it to find anything that could possibly help her. I've learnt so much along the way - this little girl has truly changed my life, and I like to think I'm doing the same for her. It breaks my heart to think what might have been, had she ended up elsewhere.
     
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  6. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Registered Users

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    But she didn't she found the best possible place xxx
     
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  7. Valkyrie

    Valkyrie Registered Users

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    I have a lot of luck with the Thunder shirt. Then working in a positive place for your dog and loud noises a very long ways away gradually working closer and closer.
    We had one dog while I was growing up that never did get over her fear she was like that until she passed away at age 22. My mom would take her for rides in the country on the 4th of July as we lived less than 2 blocks from where they shot of the fireworks.
     

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