Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Bella's Noise Phobia

This week I was happy to meet Bella, a new client with noise phobia.

How do we treat noise phobia?

Well first, we have to be sure all the dog's other needs are being met - as with ALL behavioural programs, and we do this by way of a behavioural consultation, which can throw up all kinds of things we may not have previously thought of.

Then, we help the dog to feel comfortable with any equipment we are using - in this case a snuffle box with various items in it.

We slowly added things to the snuffle box, creating layers of sound from rustling paper right up to banging pots and pans, and we did it very gradually, waiting for Bella to be comfortable with each layer of sound before adding in a new item.

It is super important not to rush this, the dog must be comfortable and "under threshold" at all times.
We then, extremely quietly, began adding in a layer of sound external to the snufflebox, so not under the Bella's control.

The sounds we chose were all based on fireworks and thunder as these were the problem sounds for Bella. There are many useful videos on You Tube of lots of different noises that can be played through a surround sound system, or a sound bar.

While Bella was happily rooting around, making noises of her own in the snuffle box, and rewarding herself with treats and goodies, she was also becoming very gradually exposed to these new noises at a level she could cope with, and enjoying herself while doing so.

It is important to keep sessions like this quite short, and very relaxed and to also be able to read the dog's body language so you can see if at any point the dog is beginning to show any kind of discomfort.

Desensitisation is to be done very gradually over many sessions.

It is also important to avoid exposure to triggers while undergoing any kind of desensitisation program (after all, you do not want to get halfway through the program with your dog and then confirm all their worst fears!) so Bella is going to spend her days with her human's dad, while her human is at work, so as not to be left alone in the event of a thunderstorm.

I really enjoy doing this kind of session as you can see the dog grow in confidence in front of your very eyes, and to see them engaged and enjoying an activity they would have found otherwise worrisome is something special indeed.

It is important to seek a professional before doing any kind of desensitisation work as it can easily go wrong when rushed or when the dog's minute signals of communication are missed.

Bella was already growing in confidence when I left, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how she has progressed when I see her next.

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