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A Dog Behavior Question

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While my 2 dogs are sleeping/cowering in the closet right now with pillows over their heads, i thought i'd pose this question....

how come our dogs, just like they learn anything else, also learn from experience that no harm will come to them from the

popping noises going on outside?? i would think that maybe at first they might be alarmed, but when it happens repeatedly,

and they are fine, then they might learn that it is not harmful. just wondering why this is. any thoughts?



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Guest krystolla

I think they do learn from experience in some cases -- otherwise repeatedly walking Hack passed trash cans until he stopped worrying about them wouldn't have worked.


I think fireworks are different because the fear isn't that the noises are going to cause harm it's that the noises are unpredictable and startling. There's no way to tell a dog that there are going to be unusual noises tonight, don't worry about it. It would take a lot of husband-accidentally-drops-cookie-sheet before I wasn't startled by the noise. ;)

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Guest gecko_foot

Tumnus is living proof of your statement. After his initial moment of panic, he usually calms down pretty quickly. Tonight was no exception. He has never batted an eye at any of the thunderstorms - and we've had some pretty severe weather - but for some reason, the fireworks really spooked him tonight. I tried making him lay down...didn't work. If anything, he became even more agitated. So, I switched to the default method for diffusing his fear: I grabbed his leash, hooked him up, and headed outside to face it head-on. As usual, Tumnus had his panic response, but a few quick reminders of leash etiquette had him focusing on me instead of the fireworks. He was still nervous, but it was very obvious that the thinking side of his brain was firmly in control. His ears went back to normal, and his tail went into a more relaxed position. I purposefully spent more time in areas closer to the fireworks - they were far enough from us that we were in no danger - with no change in pace and no coddling. It worked like a charm. Once Tumnus was completely calm, we headed back inside, and he fell asleep in five minutes. Tumnus isn't a spook by any means, but he has learned not to be worried if I'm comfortable. B)

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I've often wondered, myself. :P


I think it might depend on how badly they were scared the first time and where and when it happened. I'd imagine they aren't so scared in a kennel situation because they're in the middle of a pack. Maybe someone howls and they join in and they're all satisfied with that, I dunno. :dunno


But you can imagine that if you are suddenly take out of that pack situation, and put in a home where everything is unfamiliar, strange and frightening and you're suddenly expected to know/learn a whole new way of life with it's own new set of rules and you're alone for the first time in your life and then you get a heavy storm with thunder and lightning .. well, it all probably gets bundled in the dog's head with all the other scariness, so that the noise and flashing and static and all become associated with that 'new dog in a new situation' feeling of being overwhelmed, and maybe each time s/he hears thunder and sees lightning, all those feelings come flooding back as well? Dogs are creatures of emotion and association, after all.


But I've often wondered why you can have two dogs, one of whom is terrified and the other is as calm as a brick, and the terrified one doesn't learn from that. Maybe the scared dog just thinks the calm one is too stupid to be frightened? :lol


The plural of anecdote is not data

Brambleberry Greyhounds My Etsy Shop

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Truthfully? Despite what you'd gather from reading Greytalk, there are many, many, many dogs (of all breeds) that aren't afraid of fireworks or storms.


We've had dogs my entire life, (and so have both parents--so we're talking 80+ years of family pets) and of all of them, one of them was afraid of storms, and none of the others have ever been afraid of loud noises of any kind, and that includes my Greyhound. The one who was afraid of thunder is deaf now, so it's no longer an issue.


I do wonder the same thing--especially since so many hounds race in Florida, land of thunderstorms. You know they're not getting doped up in the kennels for the frequent storms, and they survive just fine. They they become pets, and suddenly this is a huge issue for some of them.


I do feel very fortunate that I have one of the hounds who doesn't have the problem, because I know it's a serious one.


Susan,  Hamish,  Mister Bigglesworth and Nikita Stanislav. Missing Ming, George, and Buck

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Guest tbrodzel

Last night was our first time seeing how Brynna reacts to fireworks. I was a little nervous, expected to get little to no sleep. But, from what I saw she didn't even notice them or just didn't care. She slept the whole night on the couch and never woke me. Go figure. She doesn't even seem to notice thunderstorms. I wonder why. I guess I should just count my self fortunate and leave it at that. :blush


So sad to hear your pups were cowered in the closet. :eek I hope they get to feeling better soon.

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yeah, it's weird. we had Abby for 13+ years, and she wasn't afraid of anything. We watched a video the other day from hurricane Wilma...and the weather was pretty violent outside, and there she was, completely unfazed. same thing with fireworks. she almost kinda liked them! and i used to think to myself, "man, i can't believe some people's dogs are so freaky", and i felt really superior. :rolleyes: well now i have to deal with it, too, and we'll find some better ways for next time. hope everyone has a more peaceful night tonight!

omgosh here's an old pic of abby enjoying the display!


Edited by tra708

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Guest scfilby

Mickey is deathly afraid of thunder, but is one of the most well adjusted hounds in every other way. During long storms, and on days where there are storms on and off all day, she will begin to relax somewhat over time. Relax as in cower on the floor in the bathroom instead of running through the house panting, shaking, whining, drooling.. etc..


Cy and our beagle aren't bothered by thunder, although Cy is beginning to pick up on Mickey's stress and is beginning to react to it. Cy is a spook and is afraid of everything else.


I have a theory that because Greys live with many others dogs during their racing days, during thunder storms, the stress level in the kennel goes up and they become collectively stressed. Greys learn to be afraid of thunder because they live with others who are afraid..


I have never been in a kennel during a storm though, so its just a theory. Maybe others can add their experience.

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Guest SusanP

Probably the same reason I will run screaming from a house spider despite the fact that I know I am in no danger at all from it. In fact, I am not afraid of wasps or hornets, although I know I don't want to be stung by them. I will also pick up those long-leggedy centipedes and take them outside, because for whatever reason, they don't trigger panic in me. Phobias can be irrational, but that doesn't mitigate the effect they have on those of us who have them.


PS: Out of my 5 hounds, only two have been thunder-phobic, and one of those has gotten to where he can manage his fear very well by hiding in a special place. Only one is over the top out of control afraid no matter what we do for her.

Edited by SusanP
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Guest mcsheltie

I've often wondered about this too. Cher is afraid of fireworks, gun shots etc... She is not afraid of thunder. If Boomer hears a sudden loud noise, you drop something like a pan or put a glass down loudly on something metal he will jump out of his skin and run off. But he is not afraid of fireworks. Cher does not react to loud noises other than fireworks.


Last night during the last turn out ten dogs were literally laying around the door waiting to come back in. In spite of no one else even noticing the fireworks, Cher was running amok. None of the other dogs lack of reaction helped calm her in the least. And her acting like a maniac had no effect on the others dogs. Even tho she was running over the top of them.


If one starts acting aggressive, say barking at the gate, all the others will join in. But this type of fear does not illicit reciprocal behavior in the pack.

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