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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20175
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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Help My 6 year old Staffie is suddenly frightened to go out

Customer Question

Help My 6 year old Staffie is suddenly frightened to go out for her walks. She does not like loud noises and if terrified of fireworks, but now the slightest noise when she is at the door and she cowers and will not come out. If we do manage to get her out its only for a few metres and the moment she hears anything (cars going by etc) she pulls back on her lead and can get out of both a harness or a collar. We have tried just standing with her until she moves but if she does move forward this is only for a very short distance and then she will pull in the direction of home.

Have you got any answers?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.
Hi JaCustomer,

My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response. I hope you can be patient.

Do you know of anything in particular that may have happened recoently that may have made her this much more sensitive to noises?
Perhaps she was stung by a bee, inadvertently hit with a BB or some other incident.

How long has this been happening?
Did anyone try to comfort her when she first dislayed this behavior?
What type of collar does she have?
Is the above things mentioned the ONLY things you have tried so far?
Does she travel in the car?
How often is she normally walked?
Since she doesn't want to go out, is she eliminating inside?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

1)Apart from Fireworks - No

2) Approx 2 weeks

3) No comfort but neither did we chastise - we tried to act normal.

4) Standard Leather - but also has a harness

5) Yes except for de-sensitisation with a CD with loud noises - this was baught a long time ago because of fireworks - but she does not mind the cd being played.

6) yes car travel is'nt a problem

7) once or twice a day

8) she goes out into our own garden but if she hears loud bangs she will want to com back in. - It is walking out with her that we have the problem

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.

Thanks for the additional information. It is helpful. It does sound like her noise phobia was exacerbated probably from recent fire work activity or possibly even something else like a bee sting or even slipping such as on ice coming through the door. What I'm gong to do is go over some proven methods of dealing with noise phobias and then I want to discuss some techniques that may be more effective for your particular situation.

Noise phobieas are a really a common problem as you know. You have the desensitizing CD. While the CD's are ok, dogs get scared of more than just thunder and fireworks. So rather than use the CD, tape everyday noises along with the loud noises that go along with them such as car backfires, gun shots, car horns, slamming doors, screams, any loud noise you can think of. If you can get some loud wind, I'd add that too. Then try using that tape played at a lower volumes while playing with the dog and providing positive reinforcement for the dog's lack of anxiety while the noise is played at low volumes. Positive reinforcement would include calm praise and hot dog slices or other tasty treat (not regular treats. You then gradually increase the volume slowly until your dog is desensitized to the noise. Be sure to end with the noises much louder than your dog might ever hear naturally. This might be more effective than noises not common to your area.

Your vet could prescribe a medication called Acepromazine, which is a tranquilizer. You can read about this here:

Unfortunately, the site does not allow me to make clickable links, so to view the supporting websites, you will need to copy and paste the link into a new browser window or tab.

Another prescription drug would be Xanax but I have to caution you not to give any prescription drug to your dog without consulting your vet first. Many owners use this for noise phobias.

Many people get Rescue Remedy to help with noise phobias. Be sure you get the kind that does NOT contain Xylitol if you try this. You can read about this here:

It may also be available in your local pet store as well. Benadryl(Diphenhydramine) is often used as it does tend to calm your dog. Benadryl can be given to your dog, the dose is up to 2mg per pound every 8 hours. Benadryl in not a sedative though so it won't put your dog to sleep and some dogs actually get more hyper.

Another treatment is Melatonin which you can read about here. It has been shown to work well for noise phobia anxiety.

DAP (Adaptil) collars might help a bit as well. They produce pheromones that mimic the ones produced by a nursing mom to calm her pups. It has proven to be helpful with this problem but was used in conjunction with desensitization so it is unknown if the collar or the training was the major factor in resolving the problem.

For your particular situation, I would try the desensitizing tape you produce along with xanax and the DAP collar. You may find that the medication or DAP collar alone might help her get past this new fear of leaving the house.

I think you have been doing well so far and the techniques you are trying are sound technique and just might need some tweaking. As long as she is not eliminating in the house, go ahead and let her choose the amount of time she wants to be outside unless you are actively working on this problem.

What you might do is put some tasty smelly treats in your hand and be sure she knows it is in your hand. Use something like vieena sausage slices or liver slivers. Let her know you have it in your hand and let her sniff your hand and follow it out the doorway. If she goes out the doorway, give her the treat and go right back inside. Do this over and over again. If this is successful, make her go a little further out the door each day to earn the treat.

If she doesn't have a problem with the car, try getting her into the car and taking her a couple of miles from home and walking her home. This might help her be more inclined to walk home and stop being scared of being outside again. It is going to take time and if you can have one person drive you to the drop off point, it will make it easier. She is more likely to want to walk home as you mentioned, so starting away from home might help her overcome her issue.

I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
If you have questions in the future that you wish me to answer, you may go here and bookmark the page or make it a favorite. It is best to put my name "JANE" in the question as well. Please recommend me to your friends and family members if they have any problems with their dog as well. I would truly appreciate it.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.
Just a quick follow up to see if you had a chance to try any of my suggestions. I hope you found my suggestions helpful.