What to do if your dog is afraid of loud noises


The fourth of July is right around the corner and I have been talking with many of my clients everyday concerning how to handle their dogs that suffer from ligyrophobia (fear of loud noises).  Most vets will suggest drugs (of course!… this is a growing problem in our medical community, in my opinion, whether it be human or canine the “quick fix” of drugging is seldom effective and typically an unhealthy habit.  But because it is a money maker why would the medical world ever stop it?)

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I will make this short so you can enjoy your holiday with family, friends, fireworks and stuffing your face with a spicy Italian sausage…

1.  EXERCISE the hell out of the dog.

2.  Start to desensitize the animal to more and more sounds and socialization.

3.  Be sure to NEVER CODDLE or touch or comfort the fearful dog (please see my post about Dealing with a fearful dog- it can change your life and save your dog from a life of misery!  You would be shocked to see how many dogs suffer with preventable fear and ridiculous phobias because of an enabling owner)

4. Intercept any start to the fearful behavior – meaning: as soon as the dog starts to whine, pace, freeze, bark, circle, run away…etc, etc you need to intercept or interrupt this behavior ASAP.  You only have two seconds to do this!  And be sure to interrupt the behavior with a clear countenance and energy that disagrees with what the dog is doing.  Be firm.  Stop excess movement if the dog tries to run or circle.  Stop whining by instantly standing up quickly, “get big” and head toward the dog as a warning (remember you have to match the dog’s energy in order to even break through to their attention level and then, if you do get the attention, Calm the dog! Be firm until you get eye contact.  Do not let the dog use you as a comfort blankey and constantly touch you.  Do Not say and this is a human classic….”It’s Ok.”  Fear is never “Ok.”

5. Remain calm and relaxed and actually enjoy the fireworks or whatever other loud noises are going on.  The dog should look to you for feedback on how to act not steal all the attention with doggie drama and insanity…remember always ask yourself what would the calm, social, unfearful older dog do?  Chances are the calm dog would simply ignore the fearful one.

6.  You can play some calming classical music if you want but don’t rely on unnatural solutions like this.  You can also try a “thundershirt” they can work for some dogs.  You can also try to actually bring them outside during the fireworks and let them see and understand what they are.  DO NOT CODDLE.

7. And possibly the most important thing to do…order my book (Dog Myths) on dog and human behavior!  Here is the link.  This book is outrageously different and will be amazingly beneficial for you and your dog!

Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! by Garrett Stevens

Stay relaxed as you read, Dog Myths, after exercise, of course, and have a Happy Independence Day and a less fearful dog.

don’t forget to follow this blog and go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  for more info on Garrett

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Do yourself a humongous favor and DON’T add a second dog


Just a quick warning, folks, on the hazards of adding a second dog to allegedly “play” with your other dog.  This thinking seems to be quite common out there and I wanted to quickly address it.

If you have a dog that is already a year old and has some great social skills with people and dogs and is Not aggressive, fearful, skittish, dominant, or hyper in any way then adding a second pup or dog to the equation may be an OK thing to do.  However, even with a fantastically behaved dog you are still running the risk of throwing off your whole household groove.  This means you may really blow it!  And the second dog could simply add double the trouble and time and energy!  Be doubly sure you are up for this challenge…and be doubly sure you pick the right new pup or dog and that your dog helps pick.

And please, for the love of God, don’t get two puppies at the same time, especially two litter mates!  Unless you are willing to train both separately AND together, and really make the pups bond closer to you then with each other, you will have Double the time and effort and irritation of trying to focus two, excitable, young animals that would much rather pay attention to each other than to a boring, old human such as yourself!

Yes…I know, many of you have households with two or more dogs but many of you have also been my clients because the dogs were out of control!

Picture this…you get one dog to sit or calm a bit then the other one decides not to.  Guess what happens to the first dog that was calmly sitting…he jumps up to join the other pup and then you have to start from scratch all over again.  It can be a ridiculous cycle.  So before you rush out and add double the amount of irritation, before you decide to spend double the amount of energy, before you double your cost at the vets, groomers, trainers, before you pick up double the amount of poop, consider the fact that a single-dog-household can be a fantastic life for a dog.

(This post is specifically if you want a very well behaved dog(s) you can, of course, do whatever the heck you want to do and I can’t do a thing to stop you. 😉





Shut your mouth if you want to “talk” with nature


When working with an animal, any animal, silence or quietness is key!  In fact, the more silent you are (if you are using silence right) the more serious you will be taken by your dog.  Take a moment and imagine what our dogs go through living in a world of human noise.  From our own constant talk, to our TVs, from TVs to radios, cellphones and land lines, horns and car stereos, airplanes flying overhead, construction sites, and whatever other new technology we have to blast more sound energy into our immediate atmosphere.  We live in a world of sound pollution.  I believe it is bad for the human soul and mind to be subject to all that noise (even though we are now desensitized to it and even conditioned (Pavlov would be proud) to turn the noise on as soon as we are in the home or car.  It is horrible for us… but imagine if we were an animals….Even worse!

When working with your dogs or pups today try and use less talk. Turn off the electronic devices.  Block out the noise!  Did you know that a deaf dog is just a readily trained as a hearing dog (possibly more readily trained due to the fact that it does not have the overwhelming noise and human chatter to deal with constantly)? Dog’s use energy levels and body language to communicate and their verbal (outward sound communication) is only a very small part of their lives.

Above is a pic of Saint Francis of Assisi taming the wolf of Gubbio.  An interesting legend.  Apparently the wolf was ravaging and eating the towns’ livestock and then graduated to devouring the villagers themselves.  It had killed so many people that soon the entire town feared to go outside the gates!  When the wolf sprang at St. Francis he was able to tame it and later led it back into the town of Gubbio, the wolf calmly walking with him.  He promised the wolf that if he stopped terrorizing the people and their livestock then the people, in turn, would feed him daily.  For the rest of the wolf’s years he came into town and was fed. Later, inhabitants of Gubbio even mourned at the wolf’s death.

The point of me sharing this short story with you…Monks are known for their vows of silence and their attempts to live peaceably on this earth.  Calmness and quietness are key!

Use and develop hand signals with your dogs.  The sign language you develop should be simple, easy to use, and actually goes with the motion you want the dog’s body to move into.  Use your own body to communicate to theirs.  Use your own energy to communicate to theirs.  Stay quiet and you’ll find greater results working with your dogs, greater calmness, greater control, greater patience, and greater results in your self and your own energy and body movement.  Have fun experimenting with this stuff!

“A closed mouth gathers no foot.”