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My Staffie is scared of my step sons!

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by SuperCrazyMum4, Oct 11, 2020.

  1. SuperCrazyMum4

    SuperCrazyMum4 New Member Registered

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    I have a 12 year old staffie, he is an old boy that loves nothing more than to cuddle up on the bed. I am having some serious issues with him at the moment. I should start by saying he is not scared of thunder or fireworks or lorries, but he is absolutely terrified of hick-ups, shoes that squeak on the floor and my step-sons! He shivers, trembles and skulks about and won't settle, it's like it's the end of the world. He won't even eat when my step-sons are around. I have to keep them completely separate, which is very difficult as the house we live in is not that big. My step-sons are 12 and 9 (twins) and although they are very loud, we have never left them alone with Oscar, so we are not sure why he is reacting like this all of a sudden. I'm putting it down to his old age, but we could really do with some help and advice. I'm so worried he is going to have a heart attack, that's how distressed he gets! Help please!
     
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  3. Ari_RR

    Ari_RR Well-Known Member Registered

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    Hello!!
    Has it been like this for a long time, or started recently?
    How do the boys interact with Oscar?
    What's "very loud" - running around, chasing each other, playing soccer in the hallway, racing electric cars through the house?:)
    How do you think Oscar perceives "very loud" (him being old and smaller than the kids)?
     
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  4. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

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    What Ari_RR said - and what was he like with your stepsons before this started? Did he show any reaction at all to hiccups or squeaky shoes before?
     
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  5. merlina

    merlina Well-Known Member Registered

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    It's not unusual for a dog to be nervous of only particular family members- unfortunately males and children are usually it. Did you get him as an adult? In which case he may have had bad experiences now being revived. But I also agree that three boisterous boys thundering through a house must seem like the end of the world to a small old dog. Is there no way you can recruit the children to his side? Explain how scared they are making him and try to get them to quieten down. I'll never forget my grandmother's response to me when I complained her cat wouldn't let me pick it up. 'That's because to her you are the size of a monster!' (I was five!)
     
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  6. SuperCrazyMum4

    SuperCrazyMum4 New Member Registered

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    Oscar has always been pretty scared of hiccups and squeaky shoes, so that's not new and he calms down after a little while when the noise has stopped. He has been fine around the boys up until about a month ago when the twins were screaming and crying when their dad had banned them off consoles for bad behaviour. Normally the boys are affectionate towards Oscar and we have always told them to let him have his space and only stroke him if he comes to them. The boys don't generally run around, but they have loud voices, always trying to talk over each other. I think it is their volume that is upsetting him. Are we doing the right thing by keeping him separated? It's really distressing to see the way he gets around them now. We have tried explaining to the kids, but like with most young people it goes in one ear and out the other, but we do reiterate every time it happens.
     
  7. Jan Woodhall

    Jan Woodhall Active Member Registered

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    Animals behave the way they do for a good reason! The dog will be telling you what is truth for him. Trust him and protect him - it is your duty. Best of luck
     
  8. Jan Woodhall

    Jan Woodhall Active Member Registered

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    Oh good grief! Alarm bells Alarm bells! 'dad told them off .......' says it all to me! Sounds like a simple case of humans (kids) would benefit from understanding how to behave, don't think there sounds like there is anything wrong with the dog - sorry :( The dog will also (of course) pick up on your energies! :)
     
  9. JacksDad

    JacksDad Member Registered

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    I don't have a lot of time just this moment, but the common theme seems to be mostly sounds/noise. realize normally there is a full consult, history taking, asking questions etc that goes along with a more firm assessment of what is going on.

    Some dogs with sound issues it is almost any sound, others it can be select sounds. While Jack wasn't a sound sensitive dog, he was set off by sounds you would not expect compared to sounds that are the "classic issue" with sounds sensitive dogs. For him, fireworks, gun shots, cars backfiring, horns etc. no issue. kids giggling as they run by the house, oh no can't have that. His buddy is much more the classic sound sensitive dog. Jet airplans flying at a altitude humans do not hear them, she can go to pieces and run home. The beep of a remote locking a car, sends her running for home. At night, sounds she deals with during the day, refuses to go out for bathroom breaks.

    Fear can come from past experiences or it can come from lack of experience. Do not dismiss the possibility of fear simply because a lack of known associated bad experience. There could have been one you were not aware of, BUT there could also simply be no experience. Novelty that is startling can be scary too.

    Given Oscar's age, you do want to make sure there is no other health issues that could be playing into this. Pain and/or missed illness/disease can affect a dogs ability to handle today what they had no problem with yesterday...so to speak.

    Dr. Karen Overall, one of the Vet behaviorists in the USA strongly suggests dealing with sound sensitivity issues basically as a medical issue. Because as the dog ages and/or continues to experience the noises, this issue has a strong tendency to get worse, not better when left alone. Yes, desensitization could happen naturally, but there is a greater chance of sensitization happening when the noises are continually experienced at the "scary" level.

    Treatment is of often a anti-anxiety medication combined with some careful counter conditioning and desensitization. This approach can help improve quality of life. You would need a to discuss the issue with the vet on the medication side to ensure it is appropriate, and trainer side you would need someone strong in actual behavior principles.

    I can go into more on the treatment later, just don't have time now. But I wanted to toss out some info to let you know IF the issue really is just sounds, there are things that can be done to improve quality of life.
     
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  10. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

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    It's understandable that Oscar could get scared if there's a lot of shouting and anger in the air - he knows something terrible has happened, but doesn't know that this 'terrible' is a Playstation ban, and not that the world is ending...

    But dogs can get a form of dementia, which can cause anxiety. And as Jacksdad said, meds may help even if there is no underlying medical issue, so you do need to talk to your vet.

    In the meantime, give Oscar a 'safe' place well away from the boys when they visit - somewhere he feel secure, e.g. a crate if you use one, on your bed if that's 'allowed' - and somewhere they can't approach. If he can feel safe here, he can relax, and if he has a nice bone or Kong to occupy him, all the better. You could give him access to the boys when they are being calm, but not make him approach - it should be on his terms.

    In an ideal world, of course, you'd train the boys, but having had two boys myself, I know that's much harder than training dogs, and yours are at a volatile age. However, don't stop trying...
     
  11. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    How is his eyesight? If that's starting to fail, its possible that noises would disturb him more.

    Do the children live with you? Because if they don't, noise etc will be less routine for him too.
     
  12. SuperCrazyMum4

    SuperCrazyMum4 New Member Registered

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    Thank you for all your replies. You have given me and my partner a lot to think about.

    I will of course be making an appointment with the vet just in case there could possibly be an underlying medical reason. We adopted Oscar when he was about six years old, so there is also that to take into consideration - we don't really know much about his background.

    My stepsons only visit every two weeks, so I suppose it is a shock to the system for Oscar when he is usually used to a quiet house (I do have teenage sons at home as well, but they are not loud). We do make sure that Oscar has a safe quite space (our bedroom) to stay in, but it still makes it difficult say for toileting him, because he is so nervous he won't do anything. Every time we need to toilet or feed Oscar we have to pile the kids in the bedroom.

    It's just so upsetting to see him so distressed, I wish I could help or reassure him in some way. I do really worry about him, especially with his age. I was wondering, has anyone tried the Thundershirt? It seems to have quite good reviews for helping anxiety, but they are quite expensive.
     
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  13. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    No, but I have heard good things about them. I have also heard they can create an impression of calm but the dog is actually shut down - but that was about 8 years ago, from only one source, and hearsay.

    You could also try Adaptil. It comes in a spray (for blankets etc., not for directly on to the dog), a collar and a diffuser. It replicates the hormone a bitch has after having puppies and has a calming effect on dogs.

    Or Scullcap and Valerian (try Dorwest).
     
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  14. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

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    You could try a home-made anxiety wrap - see here: How Do I Make a DIY Anxiety Wrap To Help My Nervous Dog?

    I imagine it would make sense to practise this at a peaceful time so you get the knack, and can see what Oscar thinks of it - when the children come over isn't the time to try something that he may find strange. You also want to avoid him associating the wrap with the 'scary' children coming over or the wrap itself could make him nervous.
     
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  15. Hemlock

    Hemlock Well-Known Member Registered

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    Is there someone Oscar can stay with while the stepsons are visiting?


    "Oscar has a safe quite space (our bedroom) to stay in, but it still makes it difficult say for toileting him, because he is so nervous he won't do anything. Every time we need to toilet or feed Oscar we have to pile the kids in the bedroom." (Sorry I can't find how to quote.)

    This isn't going to be fixed by tranx or a thundershirt. Often tranx leave a dog terrified but unable to show it. Removing him totally from the situation may be the way forward.

    You are a lovely owner for realising how important this is.
     
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  16. JacksDad

    JacksDad Member Registered

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    I can't remember the last time I recommended a Thundershirt, and I work a lot with fearful dogs.

    No method of anxiety reduction will work if scary is still "right there", not even medication. You have to prevent scary from happening first. Having a room for Oscar to hide in might not be enough. Remember, based on what you have shared, the suspicion is sounds causing the fearful reaction. There could be more, but lets keep it simple for now. So simply being in the room doesn't prevent Oscar from hearing the scary noises, thus the room while better than nothing, isn't from Oscar's perspective completely safe. The noise is still there, maybe reduced in intensity, but the noises are still being experienced, and experienced, and experienced.

    Sometimes just managing the situation (an Oscar vacation) is the best path. Might seem like avoiding the situation, and yes to a point it is, but sometimes it can still be the right solution. But it is always the first step no matter what. If you choose the training path, Oscar can't continue to experience scary at a level that triggers fear/anxiety or you are at best treading water, at worst going backwards. So even going the training path requires that when not training, Oscar doesn't experience scary, so we use management to accomplish that.

    If Oscar has a favorite non family member that doesn't live you all, Hemlock's suggestion of a "Oscar vacation" while the boys visit is a very legitimate option. Something to give some thought to.
     
  17. Ari_RR

    Ari_RR Well-Known Member Registered

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    I also wonder if there is a way to incentivize the kids to keep the energy level down to Oscar’s tolerance level, or is this really an impossible task?
     
  18. SuperCrazyMum4

    SuperCrazyMum4 New Member Registered

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    Thank you everyone for your advice, you really have given me food for thought.

    At the moment because of certain personal circumstances it is difficult for me to send Oscar on a vacation every other weekend, but I will definitely implement that as soon as I possibly can. My adult daughter lives around the corner with Oscar's sister, Mhya. I'm sure my daughter would be fine to have Oscar for the weekends in the near future. For the time being though I will have to keep Oscar in the bedroom with something relaxing on the TV and his favourite antler to chew on and I will keep him company as much as I possibly can. I am also planning on calling the vet to discuss if there could be any other medical issue that could be causing his distress. I will post an update once I have anymore news.
     
  19. JacksDad

    JacksDad Member Registered

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    do not feel bad if your life currently does not allow for the picture perfect ideal approach to this. do as much as you can, as you can.

    The "white noise" idea of running the tv etc can help.

    The advice so far is just the start point. Once you do the vet check or simply ready to take the next step, let us know and we can discuss what comes next when you are ready.
     
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  20. Jan Woodhall

    Jan Woodhall Active Member Registered

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    I have sound sensitive horse, which is very interesting and has been a fantastic learning curve for me. 'With humans, we are only just learning how we are affected from experiences received whilst in the womb, I am expecting the next learning will be that we are affected at conception! Learning goes on! Don't discount something because you do not know about it :)
     

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