GSD noise phobias are very common. Fear of thunder and other loud noises is a very common problem in many dogs. No one really knows why some pets become afraid of noises and some just don't.
Left untreated these fear of loud noises can easily turn into a terrible and harder to treat phobia (an excessive, persistent and irrational fear response to stimuli).
The good news is that these fear-related problems can be successfully resolved with the right training and lots of patience.
Any dog could easily develop a terrible sound sensitivity. Strange but true, they tend to get worse the older the dog gets and any kind of GSD noise phobias are better treated early on.
A small recent study has found that certain dog breeds are more prone to developing noise phobias than other breeds. Many of these dog breeds at risk include breeds such as: German Shepherds, Beagles, Collies and Basset Hounds.
Please realize that more research needs to be done in the area of fear of thunder since this particular single study was pretty small overall. This study did have another interesting finding, however: that dogs suffering from separation anxiety were also more likely to have noise and thunderstorm phobias.
What are the typical signs of GSD noise phobias, such as a fear of thunder?
Individual pets may display their particular signs of noise phobias in various ways such as:
Panting, pacing, barking, drooling, trembling or shaking, expressing anal glands, chewing, urinating/defecating and trying to escape or hide.
Did you know, concerning thunder and thunderstorms, some dogs may possibly be fearful of other storm-associated trigger events such as: a change in barometric pressure, lightning, loud rain, static in the air, smells associated with thunder storms, ionic changes, and many other things we are are not even aware of?
Another thing to consider is the owner's own attitude during the storm. You should act as if absolutely nothing unusual is happening. If the actual owner is also nervous during storms their pets pick up on this and can have a stronger fearful reaction than if the owner were actually calm during the storm. This one thing alone can easily influence the severity of the dogs fear during the storm event.
How are GSD noise phobias treated?
First and foremost, remember to refrain from giving any kinds of rewards or punishments. This is probably the most important thing to follow through with if your German Shepherd has a fear of thunder. Petting or comforting a thunder or noise phobic dog during a storm is really positive reinforcement of an undesirable behavior.
If you try to console the pet during a storm or while a loud noise is happening it may potentially signal the dog that the storm/noise really is actually something he should really be afraid of - just the exact opposite of what you want the German Shepherd Dog or puppy to really feel!Don't ignore your fearful German Shepherd either
- just the fearful behavior. If your dog comes to you, let it share your company, but don't baby her while she's with you. Don't punish the pet for showing fear but don't reward it either. Doing either will probably only increase his current anxiety level.
What else can be done for GSD noise phobias? Three of the most used options are changing the dogs actual environment, various medications and behavior modification therapies.
Medications for use with GSD noise phobias: These can be given individually or in various combinations. If your pet has a problem with thunder storms please consult with your veterinarian for his medication suggestions and dosage recommendations. Your veterinarian will probably suggest you treat your dog with some kind of tranquilizer. Keep in mind, these medications need to be given hours before the storm is predicted to happen.
Alternative therapies and natural herbal mixtures, are often recommended such as Rescue Remedy. One thing to try that you probably have in your home now is milk. It contains something called tryptophan which essentially tells the brain to relax.
Some dogs may get diarrhea, so start with small amounts (example, 1/4 cup) at first and then increase the amount to 1/2 cup of warm milk (if your dog has no adverse effects from the smaller amounts) when the fireworks or storms actually start.
Another I have heard of used by an AKC judge is Peppermint Oil which can be purchased from any health food store. Put a drop or two of oil on the bottom of each foot, right on the individual pad a few hours before the storm is to happen. Other things I have heard to try are: Valerian and Aconite. Like anything else, sometimes these work, sometimes they don't on particular individual animals so you might have to experiment a bit before you find the perfect thing for your GSD.
Change the German Shepherds environment: Changing the dogs environment can hopefully reduce the volume level of the storms sound and help make the pet less aware of what is going on. A few things you can do are:
• turn on some soothing music or the TV to mask the storm noises until the storm has past,
• rub your dogs coat with a fabric softener dryer sheet to decrease the static in it's coat,
• cover windows so the dog can't see the lightning and other storm related activities,
• keep your dog away from glass doors and windows, keep outside gates locked and closed, and• don't confine your dog to a small space such as a crate (the scared dog could seriously injure itself if it were to try to escape).
Behavior modification therapies for GSD noise phobias: There are a lot of special techniques used to help change the dog's overall response to the noise (in this case thunder). Counter conditioning is one way. Here the actual negative stimulus is associated with a positive event the pet enjoys. For example, the only time the dog gets his most favorite treat of all is just before a thunderstorm happens and during it.
GSD noise phobias are very common so the next time that your German Shepherd begins to act nervous before a storm, distract the dog by playing with a favorite squeaky toy or giving it a favorite tasty treat. In this way you are actually teaching your dog to associate those "storm" noises with a positive experience and a favorable outcome. Try this several times and when your dog begins to act less nervous, then give the GSD lots of praise. Hopefully with time and practice the next storm will be far more pleasant.
Desensitization is another behavior modification method often used. In the case of thunder and noise phobias the dog is taught to be calm when the noise level is low, and then, over time, the noise level will be gradually increased. An example of this would be to get a storm CD and play it in your home to get the dog used to the sounds over a long period of time, gradually increasing the volume while keeping your dog calm.
This is a very slow process overall to be effective so be patient - you probably won't know it is working until someday you simply realize that your dog isn't scared anymore.
Overall, it is important to be aware that fear of thunder and thunderstorms as well as other noise phobias are very common problems in dogs (and some cats). Medications, changing the pets environment and using various behavior modification therapy techniques are all helpful in reducing the dogs overall fear.
Talk with your vet or a local dog behaviorist or trainer in your area if your dog shows signs of any kind of GSD noise phobias.
These dog professionals can help you develop a treatment plan for your
own individual pet to help it overcome it's fear of thunder and noises
or at least to deal with it in a more comfortable fashion for you both.
Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends." - Alexander Pope
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