Some dogs on this planet are simply born with phobias. Take my dog, for example. She has never (I repeat, NEVER) been hit. But if she hears the words “See this?” or sees me pick up a set of rolled up blueprints from my desk, she jets to the other side of the room and literally cowers, shaking.
She does the same thing with the word “bath” and is mortally afraid of vacuums, the sound of canned air, the microwave, the sound of a person sneezing (I kid you not), the coffee grinder, and anything that has an electronic beep of any kind. She is just a wimpy whiner and is afraid of nearly everything.
I know for a fact that she simply cannot be the only dog in the world that is terrified of being alive, so I’ve devised a plan for you other hyper-phobic dog owners out there to show you how I deal with it and how it might work for you.
First things first. My dog is not little. She’s a medium-sized mix between a Rhodesian ridgeback and a pit bull. You’d think she would have a little more bravery, with those two breeds mixed in there – but no. What she does have, though, is a sense of humor. If you laugh at her, she will immediately run to you and sit down wagging her tail and making faces at you. So, while I feel terrible doing it (I really do) when she takes off across the room in fear of noise, I laugh at her.
When she comes back over, unable to resist a chance to make a face at somebody, I grab a treat, make the initially frightening noise again and give her the treat if she can brave it out long enough for the noise to stop. She’s usually shaking by the time we’re finished with this little game, but hey — she stuck it out and tried. That’s the important thing. Other times, it’s not so easy to laugh the situation off. Like when we’re at work, and I’ve got a set of plans out in front of my desk and I’m asking a client if he can “see this” little drawing, and
I realize that out of the corner of my eye, my dog has just trotted, tail between her legs, to her bed underneath my desk. I want to grab her right then and tell her it’s alright, but I can’t. When the client leaves, I will call her over and debrief her, yet again, on the use of the phrase “see this” and why it’s not a scary thing.
The problem is (and I often forget this), she’s a dog and only knows some phrases. Why they’ve become scary to her is beyond me.
Something I’ve begun doing, besides asking her to sit in front of me while the scary noise is happening, is warning her before I make the noise. This only works if I can purposely make the noise. For example, she’s come to understand that when I tell her I’m about to use the microwave, it means she’s going to get some food or possibly a treat out of it. By doing this every time I use the microwave, she’s worked past her fear of beeping noises enough to simply sit and wag her tail in the background. But it only works when I talk to her.
If she isn’t warned, she flips out. So yes, I talk to my dog and you may want to consider doing the same thing if you have a dog with similar phobias. Dogs love being spoken to and appreciate being dealt with in the same manner that you might deal with a toddler.
A third thing that I do, is trying to remain calm both in voice and action when she starts getting very upset. She’s a dog, after all, and can sense when her owner is frustrated or worried. To coddle her when she has a panic attack would be to encourage the attack to proceed. She cannot be ignored though, as she’s upset and needs to be dealt with.
Calling her over, asking her to perform a trick and giving her a treat for completing said trick will take her mind off of the former incident and focus her attention elsewhere. This will calm her down considerably. I’ve noticed too that as of late, she’s begun having asthma attacks of some kind when she gets too upset.
She doesn’t ever throw up, but she coughs and chokes. This doesn’t ever happen when we’re outside playing, only when we’re in the house. Unfortunately, we’re almost always either in the house or the office, so it happens quite often.
If I can take her attention off of being frightened (which takes a minute or two sometimes), her breathing problems stop immediately. Thus, more treats and more trick performing (and hence more playtime when we do go outside, to work off those treats).
So if you have a dog who has phobias, you may want to try some of these tricks. Pay attention to her, but don’t smother her. A frightened animal is still a frightened animal and has both sharp teeth and claws.
If you pin them into a situation, and they’re scared enough, you could get attacked. On the other hand, if you are able to convince your animal to come to you rather than you going to it, you may very well be on the road to recovery. Talking to your dog, and taking her mind off the phobia will help as well.
If you have a phobic dog, like I do, it can take a lot of time and a lot of patience to get through the hard times. Just remember, to your hyper-phobic dog, it’s taking a lot of courage and bravery that they have to force themselves to portray in order for them to get through it as well. Praise them for being such a perfect pup and they’ll work through just about anything for you.