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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I posted a few days ago about Darwin's new behavior of growling at noises, it turns out he is growling at the TV and we am stuck on what to do about it. We can be watching a movie and Darwin will growl and immediately run out of the room to his crate. He would rather be in a different room alone than in the room with us and the movie playing. To combat this we tried to baby-gate him in the room with us today. This worked to keep him in the room, but he essentially paced around growling tail tucked as hard as he could. He tried to hide under the couch, and anywhere else he could find. He was so scared that he was shaking. Ignoring him and the behavior didn't help, he just continued to try to hide anywhere he could. We even invited him up on the couch (a big treat for him), but he would jump down and pace in fear rather than cuddle with us! He completely shut down, he didn't respond to commands or even want a treat. He was completely focused on whatever was scaring him and nothing else.

This is completely new and sudden behavior. He just turned 8 months, but up to now he would gladly sit wit us and watch a movie. The only time he used to growl is if there were other dogs on the TV, but now it is at just about anything. He also has started to be a little fearful of things outside. He barked at someone approaching from across a field a couple of days ago, but once he figured out it was a person he just wanted to play like normal. It has only been happening for about a week at this point and we would really like to nip it in the butt before it gets worse.

We aren't sure if we should let him run to his crate to escape the sounds he doesn't like, or if we should keep him in the room to deal with it. We are going to try to keep him occupied for the next movie by giving him special treats and hope that is more interesting than the noise, but we would really like to hear what everyone else thinks of this behavior!

Has anyone experienced something like this before? Do you all think it is just the second fear period since he seems to be a little apprehensive of a few things? How would you respond? Should we force him to deal with the noise by using baby-gates? Should we just lure him by giving him bully sticks or another treat?

We would be extremely grateful for any advice or ideas since we miss having him spend time with us at night!
 

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You are not alone. Rosie is very reactive to the TV. In general, all of her anxiety issues really amped up around 8 months of age. I don't know what the best approach is, but I'd be inclined to let him retreat if he feels scared, at least until you have a plan for how to help him with his anxiety. Unless you can identify all of the stimuli that elicit fear and expose him to them for a long enough period for his anxiety to habituate to the stimuli, it's unlikely that being forced to stay in the room will reduce his fear--and it might even make things worse. I think just waiting and rewarding him with a treat for coming back in the room is a better idea (or luring and treating), that way he is in control of approaching. I often pause the TV (we have a DVR) and wait until Rosie calms down before I re-start the program. That seems to have helped some. I can tell by her body language when she's starting to get tense, so I pause it for a moment until I see her relax and then re-start it. These dogs are anxious types, aren't they?

P.S. We do speak reassuringly to Rosie. It doesn't seem to be making things any worse; if anything, I think it helps. Also--I think these dogs are very visual; they don't just tune into sounds like other breeds. The only common denominator in the scenes Rosie reacts to (that befuddle us) is that often the camera is zooming in, or the person/object seems to be approaching as if they are going to come out of the TV into the room. You might notice if any kind of visual approach is happening when he reacts. The other thing she doesn't like is wild movement (dancing, sports, running).

P.P.S. The other thing we have done that you may laugh at: (this only works if Rosie is settled and somewhat ready for bedtime when she starts to get scared) is to gently cover her (head, eyes and all) with a blanket or throw. It seems to make her think whatever is on the TV can't see her--because she can't see it--and it often calms her right down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the info Sarahaf!

I feel like we are having the same issue with Darwin that you had with Rosie. He was just neutered a month ago so I am wondering if that had something to do with it, but here is the approach we are taking unless someone gives us a better idea!

We are not keeping him in the room with us, he can go to his safe place (his crate) if he wants to, but if we are watching a movie or TV we have been playing with him to keep his mind occupied. This helped him make it almost through an hour long show last night. If he does leave, we let him and treat him and play as soon as he comes back. He figured this out pretty quickly last night.

We tried pausing as you suggested, and wow, did that help! We had to wait a while for him to calm down, but I think as we do it more he will figure out nothing is happening to him.

You were also correct in saying he is really watching the TV! We are leaving it on a lot now as background and we have started with just the picture on and no sound. He still looks at it and every so often growls and leaves the room, but it is much less frequent with the sound off. I think we will do this for a while and then start leaving the sound on very quietly and slowly raise it as he gets used to the idea! Hopefully this will all help him deal with whatever is scaring him!

Thanks again for you thoughts! It makes me feel better that this is somewhat normal!

PS.

We tried the blanket thing and it worked like a charm. He slept under a blanket with us while we were watching a show until he heard dog tags and that sent him running!

These dogs are like no other!

Kene
 

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Yeah, sounds pretty similar. The only difference is that when Rosie is scared, she copes with it by charging the TV aggressively (fear aggression). FYI, I recently read an article from a reliable source that says there is no evidence reassuring or petting your dog reinforces or worsens anxiety, and that in fact it may do the opposite--which jibes with my experience. http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=139&Itemid=375 (click on the article "modifying emotions"). If you think about it from the perspective of counterconditioning, what you're doing is pairing the feared stimulus with a benign one (touching, petting) to get the dog to experience a different emotion while the stimulus is present.

Also: as far as pausing the show, sometimes if she's pretty worked up by the mysterious threat, we have to wait her out a while too. But the earlier you notice signs of tension (they can be as subtle as a furrowed brow, intense gaze or ears up), the more quickly he'll calm down when you pause the show.
 

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Kene,

Thought you might find this amusing--Rosie just growled when I was fast forwarding with no sound. It definitely was not okay with her that those people were moving so quickly...

:) Sarah
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ha! Darwin is getting much better. He can almost make it through a movie now and he will watch an entire soccer or football game with me (the commercials sometimes set him off), but it is way better than what was happening! Ever since you mentioned it, we have both noticed that he really watches the TV. It is pretty amazing to watch him responding to what is going on! Hopefully with another week or two he will be back to his normal confident self!

Kene
 

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How funny! Merc doesn't pay the tv any attention but our cat definitely watches it and does NOT like the sound of barking dogs.
 

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Yeah, it really struck us too when we first saw Rosie really, really watching TV! She looked like a little person intently absorbed in her show. What took us a while to figure out was what she gets out of what she sees (that person is moving too quickly, might be a threat; that person is coming toward me quickly, about to come out of the TV and into the house, not okay).

P.S. As we speak, I'm watching a show where they're using a simulated game show "waa waa" noise--her ears are up and she is not entirely pleased with that noise. Noise again--she just sat foward, thinking about whether she needed to attack the TV.
 
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