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What is my dog scared of?

(Q) My house mate’s Dalmatian jumped off the bed and ran out of her room; he was shaking, with his tail between his legs, and refused to go back in. He’s still refusing to go in the room. What’s going on?

(A) Trainer and behaviourist Steve Goward says: It’s likely this behaviour started after a fearful event drove the dog out of the room. Such events can be difficult to overcome due to the high adrenaline-driven behaviour and the fact that the dog escapes the perceived threat, which is self-rewarding.

It’s hard to know what has scared him so badly. Like all fear-driven behaviours it is important not to force him into a situation he can’t cope with as this would be like trying to solve someone’s fear of flying by tying them up and dragging them on board a plane. The use of flooding is bad enough when you speak the same language and can explain what you are trying to do.

My advice is to try and start creating positive associations in areas near the room, then gradually move closer as you are engaging in something your dog enjoys.

(A) Behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith says: Something has startled this dog. It may have been a sound from outside which you missed, or a sudden cramp or other pain that he has now associated with being in that room. In the absence of any other trigger or more information it is very difficult to tell you what has happened.

Do not try to force him back in there. Instead praise and reward him for even taking a step towards the room. Try feeding him at the door and gradually bringing him back inside with the lure of something very tempting. Take on the role of detective and try to keep your eyes and ears open for any further signs of something that could be causing such a fright.

 

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