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Ask Jane Lefler Your Own Question
Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19590
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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We have had our rat terrier years . He has always been

Customer Question

We have had our rat terrier for 7 years . He has always been focused on me more than my husband. I walk , feed and train him. However for the past 2 weeks. His focus has changed and that is fine because I know my husband likes being the center of the dogs universe. What concerned me is the complete turn about and the fact that he can't be without my husband anywhere in the house . The dog has also become very suspicious of any loud noise - he hides. The little guy just seems off. We can't pinpoint a traumatic event and we would like to help get him back into his groove. Any ideas?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Hi JaCustomer,
My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient.
When your dog acts like this, how does your husband respond to him?
Does he reassure him? pick him up? etc.?
Where is he hiding at?
Is it only loud noises?
Is it progressively getting worse?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
- this is the 'center of the universe' :-)We have an open floor plan on the first floor. When it thunders, for years, he hides in the laundry room which is enclosed. He won't stay out where we are. This has been a really bad year for T-storms. A lot more hidding than usual. We had our daughter's dog for 7 months. He moved out about a week ago (day of the change). Our daughter and her husband were here for a couple weeks. They packed and left that day too. All planned events.New Behavior: He usually lies/lays down behind my office chair while I work. Or sometimes under my desk. Once in a while I will speak to him or pat his ribs. But, I am on the phone with clients so much that it isn't lap sitting or constant attention. I do check on him from time to time (hour or so) if he is hiding. I do make a couple soothing noises (probably re-inforcing the behavior). Then I leave. This has been a 7 year behavior pattern, though. So, I am not sure this is driving his new behavior.Used to be the laundry room. He has shifted to my office which has never been a hiding place. Used to be across the hall in my wife's office.It is not just loud noises. But let me calibrate you on that. Thunder = loud. Big Hail = loud.Now, a car or truck going by (which isn't really nearly as loud) kicks off the same response. He's always been a barker at little stuff out on the street. but, not tail tucked-hiding-fear. Rather puffed up, barking to protect the house.Used to be he would sleep through that sort of thing.He had a big barking fit the day/night of the behavior change. We think either a 2 or 4 legged predator was outside the house. It was just my wife and the dog that night.He was avoiding my wife. Now, he hangs out and sleeps on her again. But, no where near the same level of relaxation. He seems nervous and tense.He also picked up an elbow owie w/ some arthritis. He is on anti-inflammatory for it now and can move better. Before any sudden movement = PAIN!. So, that might have been driving negative feedback when anyone did anything ... including the weatherWe've started to put all the puppy training/time/behaviors back into place. Consistent play time. Sitting in the area that was his puppy run. I've been working a LOT. So, I've cut back on that to spend more time in the pack and re-establish the groove. Ditto for my wife.some little improvement in relating to my wife. Actually better than a little. he isn't avoiding her and sleeps on/with her now. But, he is still a bundle of nerves.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
we put a gate up to prevent the flight up the stairs. This is essentially forcing him to stay in his usual area.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the additional information. It is very helpful.
You are correct that any reassurances or attention when the dog is exhibiting the "scared" behavior will reinforce the behavior. In most cases, it is best to totally ignore the behavior. Don't talk to the dog, pet the dogs, or give any attention. Not only will a dog mimic the behavior to get extra attention, but they can also get the idea that you are worried about it too so they are justified in being worried, especially if with a loud bank you look up, get tense, etc. So you have to control the natural nurturing that humans have and ignore him.
However, there are also things you can do to help with noise phobias which is an underlying problem in this case. You may have tried one or two of these things but often you need to combine techniques to get the best results.
Many dogs have reactions to different noises. This is really a problem around the 4th of July and fireworks. For things like thunderstorms, some people tape the noise and play it back at 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. STart with thunder, progress to gun shots noise, backfires, then move to the cars and truck noises. Desensitization works great especially coupled with the DAP collar that I'll mention further down.
Your vet could prescribe a medication called Acepromazine, which is a tranquilizer. However, recent articles suggest this isn't as effective as originally though. You can read about this here:
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 noise phobic dog owners report a lot of success with xanax. Remember that medication should be used before desensitized to the noise and to help with training as well. The aim is to get rid of the anxiety completely.
Many people get Rescue Remedy to help with noise phobias. Be sure you get the kind that does NOT contain Xylitol. You can read about this here:
It may also be available in your local pet store as well. Benadryl 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. Leaving a TV playing loud also helps prevent your dog from hearing the outside noises. Another treatment is Melatonin which you can read about here. It has been shown to work well for noise phobias.
DAP 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.
If you can remove the noise phobia issue, you may resolve all his issues and have him back to his normal self but better since the noise issue won't be there.
Now the pain he felt on moving suddenly before he was treated for that my have become linked in his mind to the noises. Providing that positive reinforcement in the way of calm praise and tasty treats like hot dog slices may help break that link and get him back to thinking that those noises are associated with good feelings rather than pain.
Definitely do the obedience training again with him. It provides him positive attention when he obeys commands. If he is seeking attention with his behavior, this will provide him an alternative way to seek attention. You may find him coming and performing a command just to get your attention. When he does, give him that attention.
I'd start with these suggestions and see how he does after really working with him on desensitization, etc. I think he'll be a much happier dog as a result and the whole family will be please.
I hope this information is helpful to you. If you need more information or clarification, please reply and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. If you are satisfied, please take the opportunity to rate.

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