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Old 09-13-2019, 03:55 PM
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When a dog is afraid of thunder, why don't they get reassured by their owners who aren't?


Not a dog owner here, and puzzled by dogs.

Dogs are pack animals, and look to us as their leader. When you have a dog that's scared, say by thunder, and the human doesn't give a shit about the thunder, why doesn't the dog think "alpha dog isn't afraid, I shouldn't be afraid." It seems odd that the dog is afraid of something when the stronger members of their pack aren't.
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Old 09-13-2019, 04:03 PM
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I think that you may be assigning a deeper level of cognition to dogs than reality warrants.

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Old 09-13-2019, 04:06 PM
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I think that you may be assigning a deeper level of cognition to dogs than reality warrants.
Maybe, but I didn't think it was that complex of a thought process.
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Old 09-13-2019, 04:06 PM
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There is a genetic component to fear of thunder in dogs. For example it is so common in the (highly inbred) Bearded Collie that they discuss it on the breed website. It is a blinding terror that overrides any reassurance anyone can offer. Weird huh? None of my dogs have it, they snore right through. My sister's old dog, a large collie x shepherd, once jumped through a kitchen window (it was closed) in the grip of thunder terror.

Anyway dogs don't think the way you imagine. Children don't ("there is nothing under your bed, go to sleep"). Adults don't ("Just jump out of the plane after me, there's nothing to it.") Why should dogs?

Last edited by Ulfreida; 09-13-2019 at 04:08 PM.
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Old 09-13-2019, 04:09 PM
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The alpha dog theory is a myth.

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We Aren’t Dogs, and Our Dogs Know It

Finally, the very presumption that our dogs would even consider we humans to be members of their canine pack is simply ludicrous. They know how impossibly inept we are, for the most part, at reading and understanding the subtleties of canine body language. We are equally inept, if not even more so, at trying to mimic those subtleties. Any attempts on our part to somehow insert ourselves into their social structure and communicate meaningfully with them in this manner are simply doomed to failure. It’s about time we gave up trying to be dogs in a dog pack and accepted that we are humans co-existing with another species – and that we’re most successful doing so when we co-exist peacefully.
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Old 09-13-2019, 04:10 PM
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Both my dogs were scared by thunder. One of them was indeed comforted when we held her. The other one would just run and hide behind the toilet.

(RIP both of them stupid stupid critters)
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Old 09-13-2019, 04:13 PM
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Not an animal behaviorist, just a dog owner and lover.

First, dominance hierarchies among animals are not necessarily as clear-cut as that, to say nothing of the complexities of the kind of inter-species social relationship being considered here. A dog may look to its owner for guidance on behavior under certain circumstances, but such guidance-seeking behavior is highly contextual.

In the case of a dog that is afraid of thunder, the dog feels scared and is not looking for guidance on how to feel or how to act; it knows it is afraid and knows what it wants is for the thunder to go away. It just doesn't know how to make the thunder go away, and understands that its owner doesn't either (because the thunder roars again; the owner didn't make the thunder go away). Hence the escalating fear and anxiety that can follow in such dogs.
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Old 09-13-2019, 04:41 PM
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When a human being panics, and you don't; the panicking person doesn't calm down; the panicking person assumes you don't understand the situation. It's the same with dogs.
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Old 09-13-2019, 04:57 PM
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One of our dogs was terrified of fireworks (hell, even loud smoke alarms), and hardly ever get thunder storms here, but we got her a thundershirt for the next Fourth, and she was fine. The next Fourth, we forgot the thundershirt, but she slept through all the noise with no problem. She was fine after that for most loud noises.

She was confused about some noises, as well. Shortly after we got them, we were watching something on Animal Planet, and there was a kitten meowing loudly. She started to paw books out of the bookshelves on either side of the TV looking for that cat!
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Old 09-13-2019, 05:07 PM
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Not a dog owner here, and puzzled by dogs.
That's pretty funny, considering your name is a common name for a dog.

One thing that we do with our new dogs is to pet them and give them lots of treats the first time they're in a thunderstorm or hear fireworks. My hope is that it helps prevent them from making the connection that a loud noise is a bad thing.
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Old 09-13-2019, 05:33 PM
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My dummy (diagnosed developmentally disabled) Yorkie is scared of thunder, guns, fireworks, doors slamming, my sneezes.
The smartist dog I ever had, a Rat Terrier was scared of thunder, guns, fireworks, doors slamming, my sneezes.
Neither could ever be comforted.
Ya just cannot explain some things.
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Old 09-13-2019, 07:18 PM
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When a human being panics, and you don't; the panicking person doesn't calm down; the panicking person assumes you don't understand the situation. It's the same with dogs.
But that is indisputably wrong. Panic is demonstrably something that spreads from person to person. That's a really, really well understood thing.

Of course one person might panic while others do not, but the propensity for panic to spread to person to person is incredibly well established, and certainly a panicking person is easier to calm down if those around them are keeping a level head.

Dogs vary a lot in terms of their reactions to thunder. Some are just so profoundly terrified by it that they can't think of anything else, some are mildly frightened and find reassurance in their owners being calm, and some - like our dog - appear to be totally unperturbed by thunder,
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Old 09-13-2019, 08:18 PM
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For comparison, people with arachnophobia aren't any less afraid of spiders just because they see people who don't fear spiders. Their arachnophobia is deeply embedded in them.

Don't think dogs would be different. A human's lack of fear shouldn't affect a dog's ingrown fear.
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Old 09-14-2019, 05:24 AM
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it is so common in the (highly inbred) Bearded Collie that they discuss it on the breed website.
I knew that Collies were intelligent, but this is amazing!
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:07 AM
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Dogs are very intelligent, but not human. Once a fear reaction starts it's very difficult to calm a dog down, the rational part of his brain isn't going to override his instincts and emotions.

Dogs can be calmed in thunderstorms, the Thunder-Shirt seems to help. In theory it reminds the dog of being a puppy and being comforted by his mother. Others think that the tight fit keeps the dog from hyperventilating. Either way it has some helpful effect on some dogs.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:08 AM
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I knew that Collies were intelligent, but this is amazing!
It is. But for some reasons dogs still aren't allowed to join the Dope.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:39 AM
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It is. But for some reasons dogs still aren't allowed to join the Dope.
They can't type.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:41 AM
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Both my dogs were scared by thunder. One of them was indeed comforted when we held her. The other one would just run and hide behind the toilet.

(RIP both of them stupid stupid critters)
Hey, we are told to get in the bathtub here in Tornado Alley.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:53 AM
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Our Bernease Mountain Dog is absolutely terrified of thunder, to the point of paralysis. However thunder barely even registers to our Great Dane. Same with gun fire. The Bernease goes into full panic mode, yet our Dane will go to the backyard range with me and watch me shoot. (Yes he wears hearing protection. They make hearing pro for doggos.)

The point being is while in my experience some dogs are afraid of the Thunder Gods, some are completely at ease naturally.
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Old 09-14-2019, 10:20 AM
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Dogs are very intelligent, but not human. Once a fear reaction starts it's very difficult to calm a dog down, the rational part of his brain isn't going to override his instincts and emotions.
That's a good point. Humans are the same way. The fear center of the brain can take over control and block rational thought. I would guess that in dogs it would be even harder for them to calm themselves down since they have less conscious awareness and control. A human may comprehend that they can talk themselves down, but a dog probably doesn't have that ability.
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Old 09-14-2019, 11:24 AM
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They can't type.
They can with Facilitated Communication. Here's the thread where I asked about this.

Blackjack has passed away since then, but my new best friend Duke may be interested in trying it out.
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Old 09-14-2019, 11:54 AM
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Old 09-14-2019, 11:59 AM
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I have two mutts from the same litter. One is completely terrified of thunder and the other completely oblivious.
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Old 09-14-2019, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Quoth TriPolar:

It is. But for some reasons dogs still aren't allowed to join the Dope.
A common misconception. While we have in fact turned down a number of registrations from dogs, it's because of their age, not species. The Dope has a minimum age requirement of 13. Any dogs over that age are permitted and welcomed to join.

There's been some talk in the moderator back channels of modifying that rule to account for "dog years", but that discussion always sort of fizzles when we can't come to a consensus on which "dog year" formula to use, and so the rule stays in place through inertia. We should maybe try to revisit the topic and see if we can hammer something out this time-- I think that the last time it came up was before TubaDiva became the boss.
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Old 09-14-2019, 01:49 PM
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A common misconception. While we have in fact turned down a number of registrations from dogs, it's because of their age, not species. The Dope has a minimum age requirement of 13. Any dogs over that age are permitted and welcomed to join.

There's been some talk in the moderator back channels of modifying that rule to account for "dog years", but that discussion always sort of fizzles when we can't come to a consensus on which "dog year" formula to use, and so the rule stays in place through inertia. We should maybe try to revisit the topic and see if we can hammer something out this time-- I think that the last time it came up was before TubaDiva became the boss.
How old is TubaDiva?

My cat can turn the wifi off on a laptop. I'm sure she would like to join and start a thread on why Frontline does work as well as it used to.
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Old 09-14-2019, 02:03 PM
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A human may comprehend that they can talk themselves down, but a dog probably doesn't have that ability.
They can eat their way down.
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Old 09-14-2019, 02:08 PM
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When a dog is afraid of thunder, why don't they get reassured by their owners who aren't?


(Didn't read the whole thread)

For the same reason they sniff the food/treat every time you offer it to them even after DECADES of knowing you.
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Old 09-14-2019, 02:45 PM
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(Didn't read the whole thread)

For the same reason they sniff the food/treat every time you offer it to them even after DECADES of knowing you.
Well, sometimes I put a damn pill in the stuff.
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Old 09-14-2019, 03:08 PM
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Well, sometimes I put a damn pill in the stuff.
Hehe. I rest my case.
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Old 09-14-2019, 03:17 PM
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Not an animal behaviorist, just a dog owner and lover.

First, dominance hierarchies among animals are not necessarily as clear-cut as that, to say nothing of the complexities of the kind of inter-species social relationship being considered here. A dog may look to its owner for guidance on behavior under certain circumstances, but such guidance-seeking behavior is highly contextual.

In the case of a dog that is afraid of thunder, the dog feels scared and is not looking for guidance on how to feel or how to act;...
I think that sums it up from my also amateur dog observer/lover POV. Dogs in general relative to most other even domestic animals, and some individual dogs in particular, heavily rely on humans to 'tell' them what to do. But only for certain things.

And speaking of us being their 'pack leaders' is only a figure of speech at best. Our most recent own dog had a fighting background (she was used at least to breed fighters), so if she'd treated us as other dogs she would have ripped our heads off. She did not treat us as any kind of dog, but as people, and her instinct was to study people carefully and try to do what she believed they wanted her to. I don't see though that it would have been relevant if she was scared of thunder (she didn't seem to be, not much anyway). Our daughter's dog we sometimes dog sit is in the same appearance category, 'pit bull' (neither a pure bred). But she as individual pays much less attention to what people want, is much more interested in socializing with (not trying to kill) other dogs, and happens to be more cowed by loud storms. I don't think the three things are related necessarily. My impression of dog behavior is just that it varies more by individual than a lot of discussions take into account. But (at least dog-) consciously wanting to please people and being involuntarily afraid of things don't seem closely related aspects of behavior.
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Old 09-14-2019, 03:47 PM
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It is. But for some reasons dogs still aren't allowed to join the Dope.
OTOH, on the Internet no one knows you're a dog.

(Of course that is pre-captcha. Just show a squirrel running around the screen and see how long it takes a dog to type in the scrambled letters.)
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Old 09-14-2019, 04:49 PM
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If you had owned a dog, you would have noticed that they have lots of innate behaviors that were never taught to them. For example, most owners don't spend all day looking out the window and yelling at anyone who walks by, but dogs do this with incredible interest and focus. They will also do other things like spend hours chewing on toys and chase after squirrels. As far as I know, dog owners typically don't do those things either.

Dogs are also excellent companions. One thing they also know how to do on their own is looooooove their owners with all their heart. If you've never owned a dog, maybe consider getting one if it would fit with your lifestyle. One great way is to go to a petstore when they host a foster group doing dog adoptions. They happen pretty much every weekend. The foster group will have lots of volunteers that can tell you everything you need to know about the dogs. Some groups have different focus areas (small dogs, certain breeds, etc.), so look around for the group which has dogs you think might work best.
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Old 09-14-2019, 05:18 PM
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Years ago I read a book written by some holistic-type vet (long before I’d ever heard of such a thing).

He posited that fear of thunder was related to temporally associated paw pain caused by random static discharges through the paws, and posited that cowering in the bathtub relieved this symptom through grounding the dog.

I don’t recall that he offered much to prove the case. I don’t have any experiences with my dog that seem to support or refute this explanation.

To the extent that thunder shirts may work and that I wouldn’t figure they would significantly relieve this proposed static effect, I guess they would serve to refute this proposition.
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Old 09-14-2019, 06:53 PM
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A common misconception. While we have in fact turned down a number of registrations from dogs, it's because of their age, not species. The Dope has a minimum age requirement of 13. Any dogs over that age are permitted and welcomed to join.

There's been some talk in the moderator back channels of modifying that rule to account for "dog years", but that discussion always sort of fizzles when we can't come to a consensus on which "dog year" formula to use, and so the rule stays in place through inertia. We should maybe try to revisit the topic and see if we can hammer something out this time-- I think that the last time it came up was before TubaDiva became the boss.
Thank you mods so much to have let me join the boards. And in dog years, I'm the canine Methuselah anyway...
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Old 09-14-2019, 07:34 PM
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I knew that Collies were intelligent, but this is amazing!
They actually had a Border Collie design it. Beardies aren't that technically proficient.

Last edited by Ulfreida; 09-14-2019 at 07:37 PM.
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Old 09-14-2019, 08:52 PM
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Strangely enough, I had a dog that hated thunder and fireworks, and would jump and bark like mad with one exception --- if they happened at night, when she was in her crate*. Almost like, "I'm in my hole, I'm safe here." Maybe some how a den, or a cave like environment helps?


*For some reason, she just never outgrew it. In fact, she'd paw at my mother when it was "bed time". We used to leave it open for her, but unfortunately, the cats started going in there. It had her little bed, and a blanket over it, so I guess she felt protected. Go figure.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:43 PM
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Thank you mods so much to have let me join the boards. And in dog years, I'm the canine Methuselah anyway...
Tell us your thoughts on fear in the canine.
Welcome to the Dope.
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Old 09-14-2019, 11:09 PM
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I only ever had one dog that was afraid of thunder, and she was a rescue dog whose earlier owners often left her outside when they left for the day, so my feeling is that she'd been out in thunderstorms. All kinds of weather, really.

The rest of my dogs I acquired when they were puppies. T-storms didn't bother them unless, as the OP said, they bothered us. Like, I lived in Oklahoma, and when tornado-like weather appears (which usually it doesn't, in Colorado), I get a little freaked and head for the basement. When I get freaked, so do my canine pets.

My cats who appeared in my yard after getting along on their own for awhile were also afraid of thunder. One of them would head to the basement at the first sign. The longer he lived with his, the braver he got. By the end of his life he didn't seem nearly as freaked out by it. The cats I got as kittens (current cats for example) pay (or paid) little attention to thunder. Although if outside, they would come in.

However, none of them like fireworks much. With the current dog, it builds as the fireworks increase over That Month. But he just gets a bit clingier, and he's still willing to go on walks (oh did I say willing? He will always go for a walk. Let's say, eager).

So IME dogs do pick up on their owners' feelings about things. Their calmness, or lack thereof.
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Old 09-15-2019, 12:31 AM
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I think extreme thunder fear in dogs is more akin to PTSD in humans than some more rational thing. It's a combination of strong emotion and a massive adrenaline rush. That amount of adrenaline short circuits a lot of the normal thought processes. You can't think your way out of it during the event. And you can't talk a dog through it before the event re-occurs, so none of the same interventions will work.

For dogs who are just normally wary of it, I've always assumed it was due to the fact that their hearing is so much more acute. If thunder occasionally hurts my ears, it must be excruciating to them.

None of my dogs had the extreme, shaking, terror reaction, but I did have a german shepherd who always hid under the kitchen table until it was over. This was especially odd because storms were like a huge treat to my brother and I growing up. We would open up the garage door and sit on lawn chairs watching the trees bend in the wind and the light show if there was one. It wasn't until junior high, when I was watching as a tree got hit by lightening just outside my kitchen window that I started being afraid and hiding under there with her.

The current CeltDog, a poodle/terrier mix, always runs straight to me or Celtling when thunder booms. But it's more with an air of protecting us from it than of fearing for himself. Heart of a lion, that little mutt.
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Old 09-15-2019, 10:42 AM
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Some professionals who know dogs well advise not lavishing a lot of attention and comfort on them during supposedly stressful situations, as it supposedly reinforces negative/panicky behavior.

This may work for certain dogs. On the other hand, when we got our puppy Bubba and his older sister picked up him by the neck and shook him vigorously as a lesson in who was boss (causing him to shriek in distress) Mrs. J. held and comforted him for quite awhile. Bubba grew up to be a calm and easygoing dog, not ''spoiled'' by being comforted.
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When a human being panics, and you don't; the panicking person doesn't calm down; the panicking person assumes you don't understand the situation. It's the same with dogs.
My favorite story in this regard is Dave Barry's anecdote about being outdoors with his dog during an impending thunderstorm and reassuring the dog that there was nothing to be alarmed about - just before a huge lightning strike and blast of thunder nearby hurled him to the ground. When he looked over, there was his dog, eyeing him with tongue lolling. ("See, you moron?").
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Old 09-15-2019, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Quoth Guinastasia:

Strangely enough, I had a dog that hated thunder and fireworks, and would jump and bark like mad with one exception --- if they happened at night, when she was in her crate*. Almost like, "I'm in my hole, I'm safe here." Maybe some how a den, or a cave like environment helps?
For a lot of dogs, being in their "den" has a calming effect in general, and helps with all sorts of situations where they're getting overly-excited. The more self-aware ones will go to their "den" on their own when they need it.

And dogs might not regard us as other dogs, but they do regard us as part of the pack. They just don't have any expectation that a pack must be composed exclusively of dogs. After all, most humans with pets regard them as being part of the family, despite knowing perfectly well that they're not human.
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Old 09-15-2019, 11:46 AM
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It is. But for some reasons dogs still aren't allowed to join the Dope.
Only the dogs who get to be 13 or older are allowed to join, unfortunately - that narrows the field down considerably.
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Old 09-15-2019, 11:54 AM
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A common misconception. While we have in fact turned down a number of registrations from dogs, it's because of their age, not species. The Dope has a minimum age requirement of 13. Any dogs over that age are permitted and welcomed to join.

There's been some talk in the moderator back channels of modifying that rule to account for "dog years", but that discussion always sort of fizzles when we can't come to a consensus on which "dog year" formula to use, and so the rule stays in place through inertia. We should maybe try to revisit the topic and see if we can hammer something out this time-- I think that the last time it came up was before TubaDiva became the boss.
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Only the dogs who get to be 13 or older are allowed to join, unfortunately - that narrows the field down considerably.
At the point where I asked about this my best friend Blackjack was probably 13. He's passed away since and currently residing here are Duke who is just one year old, and Max who is 12. If Max makes it to 13 I'll see if he wants to join. But I suspect he's just going to post pictures of himself looking cute.
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Old 09-15-2019, 01:59 PM
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FWIW, my mother used to calm a thunderstorm-nervous dog by lying down on the couch and pretending to take a nap (or actually doing so.)

She said that when the dog saw my mother relaxed enough during the storm to fall asleep, the dog relaxed also.

I can't remember whether that was the dog who didn't start off afraid of storms, but became so when the house we lived in was struck by lightning -- the house itself wasn't damaged, and nobody was hurt, but everything electrical that was plugged in at the time* got burnt out, and there were IIRC sudden broken lightbulbs all over the place and humans running around freaked out and dealing with broken glass.

I expect it depends a great deal on the dog, though. I've never had one who was afraid of storms in the first place.



*this was in the 1950's or 60's, so we had a lot less stuff plugged in than a modern household would have.
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Old 09-15-2019, 02:09 PM
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My dog doesn't understand why I don't get excited by the fact that the dog next door is barking - I love my dog, but I don't think they have much concept of the inner thought-life of other dogs, or humans.
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Old 09-15-2019, 02:26 PM
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Two of my dogs become quivering blobs of jello when the smoke alarm "low battery" beeps (Not the much louder actual alarm). In fact they are much more terrified of that than thunder. Anybody else notice this?

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Old 09-15-2019, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by bobsmom101 View Post
Two of my dogs become quivering blobs of jello when the smoke alarm "low battery" beeps (Not the much louder actual alarm). In fact they are much more terrified of that than thunder. Anybody else notice this?

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That used to bother Blackjack. There's an episode of Modern Family where they can't find a smoke detector that beeps throughout the episode. That drove Blackjack nuts.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:40 AM
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Two of my dogs become quivering blobs of jello when the smoke alarm "low battery" beeps (Not the much louder actual alarm). In fact they are much more terrified of that than thunder. Anybody else notice this?
I don't know for sure what the dogs are reacting to. I do know that the particular sound that my alarms make for 'low battery' hits a frequency that drives me straight up the wall -- it doesn't frighten me, but for me it's a really unpleasant sort of noise. Dogs hear frequencies humans don't even hear, and I wonder whether some of yours are having a similar and perhaps even stronger reaction. Sensitivity to the particular sound might vary from dog to dog, just as such things do from one human to another -- I think most humans find that beep only mildly annoying.
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Old 09-16-2019, 12:10 PM
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You might be able to leverage your dog's fear of thunder to get it to do something, as with Thurber's Airedale, Muggs.

"Muggs was afraid of only one thing, an electrical storm. Thunder and lightning frightened him out of his senses (I think he thought a storm had broken the day the mantelpiece fell). He would rush into the house and hide under a bed or in a clothes closet. So we fixed up a thunder machine out of a long narrow piece of sheet iron with a wooden handle on one end. Mother would shake this vigorously when she wanted to get Muggs into the house. It made an excellent imitation of thunder, but I suppose it was the most roundabout system for running a household that was ever devised. It took a lot out of mother."

- "The Dog That Bit People"
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Old 09-16-2019, 04:18 PM
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I don't know for sure what the dogs are reacting to. I do know that the particular sound that my alarms make for 'low battery' hits a frequency that drives me straight up the wall -- it doesn't frighten me, but for me it's a really unpleasant sort of noise. Dogs hear frequencies humans don't even hear, and I wonder whether some of yours are having a similar and perhaps even stronger reaction. Sensitivity to the particular sound might vary from dog to dog, just as such things do from one human to another -- I think most humans find that beep only mildly annoying.
I suppose the noise is deliberately made to annoy humans so you will *change the freaking battery already*! But I wonder whether the problem for dogs doesn't also have something to do with the intermittent nature of the sound. Here's another data point: the same two dogs are also terrified of distant gunfire/fireworks. It's not even loud, just little pop pop pops every now and then. The pups head straight for the bathtub.

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