Traumatized dog -- can anyone help?

We adopted a stray dog from a friend last Christmas. The dog had shown up at her house (following her kids, of course). It was already trained – housebroken, leash trained, would sit on command, didn’t jump up on you, very well mannered. The friend advertised “found dog” all over but no responses.

She already had two dogs and asked if we’d like to adopt him, and we’d been thinking about being dog-less and agreed.

“Boomer” is a very nice dog but is terrified of loud (and semi-loud) noises. Thunderstorms will send him careening into your body – like he wishes he could crawl inside you.

The 4th of July was a nightmare – we wished we had earplugs for him – he just shook all night long at the neighborhood firecrackers, etc.

Actually, we’re starting to think the reason he was a stray is that someone trained him as a possible hunting companion – when the owner saw Boomer’s reaction to noise, maybe he just dumped him.

Anyway, does anyone know of a way to “cure” Boomer of this reaction? (We gave him the name before knowing of this idiosyncrasy.)

He reacts badly to any kind of sharp noises – they don’t have to be loud – it’s not a major problem for us, but I’d like him to not be so fearful of something we can’t control.


I had a dog like that when I was a kid… we just learned to live with it.

You haven’t had the dog for a full year yet, so I’d suggest trying to build up the dog’s sense of security and being loved, and see if time helps.

You might also try one of the online pet forums, and ask a vet.

The most important thing to do is to try and make him feel as safe and secure as possible. This may be difficult to do. In the case of the 4th of July, you may simply have to remove him from the area to a quiet place until the tumult is over. (My sister has a dog with the same ailment, and she lives in the city, where all the kids blast off fireworks every 4th. Her dog literally foams at the mouth and trembles so badly that he hyperventilates; so every 4th of July, she brings the dog with her to my house—my wife and I live on 14 acres of rural land, so if there is any noise, it’s pretty muted. When all the noise and outcry is over with, she takes him home, and he does fine.) As for other loud noises, you may have to pick him up (if he’s small enough) and soothe him until it’s over. If not, kneel down and hold him to reassure him. If he’s a younger dog (like 18 months or younger), he may grow out of this. If he is an older dog, he may well be this way for the rest of his life. But as I said, the most important thing to do is to make him feel secure, that his home is a place where he is safe, and that he can depend on you to protect him. You can tell if he’s feeling secure and content; he’ll be playful or affectionate when he’s awake, and watch how he sleeps…if he sleeps on his back with his hind legs all sprawled out on either side (exposing his vulnerable underbelly) you will know he feels safe, because only a dog who feels completely secure will sleep this way. I wish you loads of luck and best wishes with him; I love dogs, and it hurts me to see one who’s been mistreated or traumatized in some way----but if you are very patient and very kind with him, you can help him to feel more relaxed, even if you don’t cure him entirely. Good luck!

Another thing that I forgot to mention which can be very helpful is to get him a kennel to sleep in; one of those cage-style deals with a door at one end which you can buy at any pet supply store. They’re expensive, but well worth the money. Put some pillows in the bottom for him to sleep on, and once he gets used to it, he’ll spend a great deal of time inside his kennel, because it’s “safe” in the kennel----to his mind, nothing can “get” him while he’s in there. Some people like to throw a blanket over the top, which makes it like a cave or den, and can make some dogs feel even more safe. If you have to leave him alone for any stretch of time, the kennel is really the best place in the world for him; not only does it keep him out of mischief, but it makes him rest easier until you come back. Just make sure you don’t leave him in there for any long length of time; 4 hours is about the limit, and then he’ll need a potty break, a drink, and a chance to stretch and run around. During the day or when you’re home, just leave the door open, and a lot of the time, he’ll enter by himself and snooze for a while. Do what you can to reassure him and help him understand that the kennel is not a punishment place—it’s “his house”. Once he gets it in his head that the kennel is cool place to be, you’ll be all set. Our dog loves hers, and she spends a lot of time sleeping in there, all on her own.

I looked this up in one of my dog books. They suggested that you merely pat the dog once or twice, speak reasurringly, and then ignore his plight. According to the author, comforting the animal is a “reward” and only encourages the behavior to get attention.

Sounds a tad cruel to me. My dog/daughter is terrified of noise. She bounds into our bed when the lightning kicks in, worming her way up between my husband and me. I cuddle her, and comfort her when she is afraid. Because when something goes bump in the night, and I’m too scared to move, she comforts me with her “Brave Mean Dog” act.

Plus, she makes and excellent foot warmer.

There’s really not a lot you can do besides offer basic reassurances – it’s extremely common dog behavior.

Yup, its very common. I’d go with the suggestions of just comforting her when it happens. You may be able to condition it out of her, but I’d consult a professional to do so.

This is a funny thread in comparison to the cat noise thread. This is why I am a cat guy. I appreciate the “you do your thing, I’ll do mine” attitude the cats have.

when I was a kid (9 or 10) we got this beautiful long haired collie shaped pure white dog…he was still a pup, we called him willie ( cant ever guess how many times mom called the dog and I yelled “what?”)
anyway, willie was a farm pup, and the runt…he had been abused by the bigger dogs and would exhibit that same scared behavior when he heard a car door shut! he slowly got better, but never lost the fear of storms.When we ( younger brother and I ) were little enough, we sould lay under the couch and comfort willie when he was scared…then as we got to big, he sought us out for comfort on top of the couch…lve the dog, reassure him…shelter him if you can ( the kennel idea sounds like a winner!) and he will get a little better. He will love you all the more for your comforting him…willie was a great dog, and he loved us like crazy.Still miss him…been 11 years.
Good luck, give doggy a hug for me!

My parents’ Golden Retriever had the same problem. It was so bad that the vet prescribed mild tranquilizers for her; every Fourth of July, we’d give her half of a tiny pill before the noise started. She still got upset, but she wasn’t as likely to hurt herself while jumping around.

I’m not a warlock. I’m a witch with a Y chromosome.

More agreement on the comforting. Forget what that author said about “rewarding” the bahavior…it’s not a controllable behavior on the part of the dog, it’s a sincere emotional reaction. My dog was this way all his life, and I just held him quietly and petted him.

I no longer have this problem, however, since he is now deaf. This last 4th was the noisiest I’d ever experienced, (A new neighborhood) and he slept peacefull through the whole thing.


I recently had my 17 yr old white shepard, Sylvie, put down. When she was a young dog she would jump the fence and not be seen sometimes for weeks. Then one day she’d show up in the yard. We could throw firecrackers on the 4th of July & she would try to bite them. My point, in her younger years she was fearless. When she was about 12 loud noises, particular thundrestorms, terrified her. Reassurance is about all you can do. I never figured out what made her afraid, maybe her hearing was failing at that time. I also had a siberian male with the same characteristics. I’m sure age has something to do with it. I know it’s pitiful. How old is Boomer? You might try prozac in her food around the 4th, just kidding :wink:

I also had a dog who completely lost it anytime he heard loud noises. One July 4th he jumped right through our front picture window to try to hide. We had to take him to the vet for a few stitches, and the vet reconmended some mild tranquilizers for him. It really helped calm him down and kept him from hurting himself. From then on every year I went a couple of weeks before the fourth of July and got his meds. He was much happier.

They’re not Hot Flashes,
They’re Power Surges!

Wow, thanks – I’m really glad everyone didn’t recommend pet therapy, cuz I can’t afford that – but the cuddling and reassuring we can do.

I like the comment about how he sleeps – if he’s secure, he’ll sprawl and show his belly – Boom does this too.

But the cage-kennel? I’ve seen more and more dog owners using them, and I’ve just felt it was kind of a yuppie want-a-dog-but-don’t-want-it-on-the-furniture thing. And I’ve thought it was kinda cruel. But the way you describe it, as a place for the dog to feel safe, makes me think we’ll try it.

We aren’t sure how old Boomer is – the vet said probably 6-8 months when we got him last December.

But he’s a sweetie, even though he’s not as easy to care for as our two cats.

Thanks again.

Now how do I keep him from licking his balls in front of company?

Errr, teach him how to lick theirs?

Another note on the Kennel thing…You must NEVER take things out of the kennel while the dog can see you. The kennel must be a place that is completely and totally the dog’s “territory.” Dog breeders and trainers for seeing-eye dogs (I have a friend who is a licenced dog trainer) swear by this method. The kennel should be just larg enough for the dog to stand up and turn around, but no bigger or they’ll designate a “bathroom.” Never send the dog to the kennel as punishment, but you’ll find that when reprimanded, they’ll automatically retreat into their “safe” place. I’m told that in the wild, canids will dig out a place to sleep, often beween the roots of a tree. In this way, they feel safe baecause danger can only come from the front.

Katie – Boomer has done the tree thing – has a very nice hole under an evergreen near the front steps. Pretty deep too.

We call him our furry roto-tiller – just wish we could get him to dig on command. (Garden full of weeds just waiting for him.)