Senior Dobie phobia? Please help.

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maxfield's picture
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Hello,

I'm new here and I need some advice.  Our 11 year old Dobie has developed a fear of my husband's sneezing.  The problem is he wants to be close to me.  He weighs 90 pounds.  He will try to get on my lap of jump on the bed.  My husband  tries to suppress his sneeze, but Max knows.  My question is what can we do besides telling him NO?

Thanks,
Carol

maxfield wrote:

Hello,

I'm new here and I need some advice.  Our 11 year old Dobie has developed a fear of my husband's sneezing.  The problem is he wants to be close to me.  He weighs 90 pounds.  He will try to get on my lap of jump on the bed.  My husband  tries to suppress his sneeze, but Max knows.  My question is what can we do besides telling him NO?

Thanks,
Carol

Our 11.75 yr old dobe has suddenly started being fearful of things that she was never afraid of as well. It is normal so to speak for them to do this. The last thunderstorm we had NONE of slept all night, not because of the storm but trying to comfort her. This was a dog who never was afraid of gunshots, thunderstorms, fireworks and now we are noticing little things here and there that she shies from. I wish I had some suggestions but I think it is a senior thing. You could try the oh you are so silly- go see thing and make light of it. good luck.

AlphaAdmin's picture
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Indeed, old dogs can get fearful. Be sure though not to 'comfort' him as you would a human. Don't stress, pet her and tell her everything is ok. In the dog world that's telling him something horrible just happened and we all need to bond.

It's better to treat him like he's being goofy or even bad. Next time your husband sneezes and the Dobe gets worried, give him a good 'no' - and then remind him of his confidence by giving him a few commands. He should have a list - sit, down, heel, and so on. Once he snaps out of it you can tell him how good of a dog he is.

Sorceress_Mage's picture
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Let me add my two cents in on this.  I am not an expert, but am a voracious reader and found an article (due to looking up every link on these posts and then others when I see them on the link I went to.  They say that dogs have several periods throughout their life, than just the 8 week old one and that it is normal for a dog to react to something differently than he had previously.  I wish I remembered where I had read this--just last night, in fact.

AlphaAdmin's picture
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Sorceress_Mage: I think you're talking about the Fear Imprint Period - between 8 and 11 weeks of age. Many people misunderstand this period. It's not a time when a dog will react differently. It's a time when bad experiences will have an unusually profound affect on the dog long term.

Sorceress_Mage's picture
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Hey Horseeatingweeds:

I did mention that period, however, they say that a dog will have several of these periods throughout their life.  Maybe I ought to clarify that statement.  They can and do shy away from things that previously never bothered them before--not really the fear imprint period around.

Well, anyway, I just looked at my history on my computer and found the place.  I will quote it here and give the site addy:

" During the "flight instinct" period your puppy will experience periodic fear periods between 6-14 months. Adolescent dogs may spook at the silliest things. You walk down the same street every day for months and one day, out of the blue, he becomes hysterical at the sight of a fire hydrant that has always been there. Your pup may become unable to enter his own backyard because there's a wheel barrow parked in the corner that wasn't there before. Environmental contrast. They are on high alert when they perceive things aren't "normal."

The degree of startle response depends on breed and early socialization.
Dogs whose genetic heritage has programmed them to be alert and focused outward will often have an more pronounced fear period. Protection breeds (Shepherds, Rotts, Dobes) and herding breeds (collies, cattledogs, etc) will need increased positive socialization during adolescence. It's almost like one day they can see better at a distance. Suddenly they are noticing the neighbor across the street as he gets out of his car. Their alarm starts with a suspicious "boof - boof" followed by "bowrrrooooooo-roooo-rooo" going up in pitch. If this behavior is allowed to be practiced, their confidence in "scaring away the mailman" (he was leaving anyway) or neighborhood kids will increase. You don't want them to become experts in scaring the neighborhood. Continue positive socialization and training!

Between 6 & 18 months your dog is in adolescence. Becoming an adult. Living in an adult body with a puppy brain. Your dog experiences emerging territoriality and responsibility for the pack combined with conflicting feelings of puppy insecurity. Sometimes it looks like Jekyl & Hyde. While some breeds are naturally more vocal than others, the problem is magnified in dogs with limited socialization. Anti-social dogs become more so. Frightened dogs DO bite if cornered. If they find out that lunging and barking will make the scary thing go away, they will add it to their arsenal of behaviors that work. Control the environment so they don't feel they have to defend themselves. Do not encourage "watch dog" behavior at this age, you are rewarding fear and suspicion not bravery and confidence.

The more timid or unsure the dog feels, the more noise he makes. Young adolescent dogs pushed beyond their safety threshold frequently lunge and bark with hackles (the ridge of hair down the dog's shoulders and spine) raised. The more hackles, the more fearful the dog actually feels. This behavior is designed to create distance between them and the scary thing. Small breeds often bark more than their larger cousins - what they lack in size, they make up for in attitude and volume! Confident dogs make very little noise. Socialization is the key.

The good news is they do grow out of it - with your support and guidance. It is important to continue to expose them to lots of new things. It may be easier to leave them home rather than take them on walks where a meltdown happens every block or so, but it's imperative to get them out in the world and continue their socialization."

Here is the link:  http://www.diamondsintheruff.com/fearimprint.html

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Oops, not quite the senior thing--but adolescence.  I guess maybe the same thing could happen if they are older.  I really don't know.  That's what I get trying to remember all that I had read that night--I guess I am having my senior moments as well.  lol  Too many of them lately--maybe the diabetes kicking in.  Sorry.

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Whoever wrote that article is talking about simple development stages. I feel it's important to be specific when you talk about the fear imprint period - mainly because of the last part of the article.

Quote:
The good news is they do grow out of it - with your support and guidance.

Yeah, they grow out of each stage of development, and they grow out of the fear imprint period - but they don't grow out of the damage that can be so easily done during the fear imprint period.

A lot of people erroneously (or nefariously) confuse this period with a stage where a puppy will act fearful - usually when trying to sell a poor tempered puppy. This is very wrong.

Indeed, as a puppy matures and it's senses open and brain develops, it will notice new things and have to decide how to react to them. A puppy might suddenly notice a fire hydrant for the first time and decide to meet it with aggression. But that has nothing to do with imprinting.

Now if the puppy notices the fire hydrant at the same time as its owner accidentally trips and steps on the puppy during the fear imprint period - the puppy may very well fear fire hydrants for the rest of its life, regardless.