Sound sensitivity/hiding

busannie

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Bus is terrified of the sounds the CO and smoke detectors (particularly at my parents' house, where we hang out a lot) make. This was previously only a problem last spring, when my Dad initially installed the CO detector and tested it, the bird (African grey, picks up annoying sounds instantly, never things we want, lol) decided the high pitch beep it made was an awesome sound to mimic. Poor Bus was petrified to go to my parents' house for over a month- he would shake, pant, try to bolt out the door, etc. I did some desensitization with him, (also tried alprazolam- no help, thundershirt- some help, and melatonin- some help) and he did improve, it helped too that the bird moved on to bigger and better sounds. As a result, there had been minimal alarming, and minimal fright on Bus' part.

Over the last few months though, he's made some crazy associations with the detectors, and also developed some new coping behaviors which have me a little bewildered. When my Dad rebuilt the bathroom, he failed to put in a new exhaust fan (said they didn't need it :/), which means that when someone steams the bathroom up showering, then exits and leaves the door open, it sets off the smoke detector right outside of the bathroom. This in turn causes Bus to be distressed. His stress relieving behavior for the beeping sound is to smash himself under the loveseat in my parents' living room... he really doesn't fit, but if he lays on his side and scoots in like that, it's a nice tight, secure fit and he apparently feels safer when he's in a space barely big enough to breathe in.

Unfortunately, he's figured out the connection between people showering and the detector beeping, so about 4-6 weeks ago, he started exhibiting stress signs when people showered- pacing, shaking, hiding under the loveseat. Now that we know it freaks him out, everyone is careful to shut the door after showering, but the damage has already been done. He's doing it even if people are just in the bathroom for a greater than "normal" length of time.

I'm not sure how he determines when it's "time" to take shelter, I can be playing ball with him or he can be playing with a food dispenser toy and he'll just randomly stop playing and start stressing- never at any one particular time after the bathroom is occupied. He usually starts off by "shutting down", ears back, tail tucked, stops playing or eating, starts pacing, and usually heads for the loveseat. Sometimes he'll come to me, but unless I "squish" him, he'll get down, pace more, and try to get under the loveseat. I usually put a pillow on him and lean on it, or put him between the arm/back of the couch and me and he settles down and acts fine pretty soon after. The thundershirt helps a little, but he likes to be tightly squeezed, and it apparently doesn't do the trick sometimes. I've been heading him off before he can get to the loveseat, and encouraging him to burrow into the throw pillows on the couch instead because I'm afraid he's going to get his collar stuck under there. He's also let himself out of the house several times by jumping on the screen door until he knocks the latch loose- those times I've been in the kitchen where the door is, and he's been pacing around between my feet and the door, asking to go out beforehand- but I don't want to consider the possibilities if he let himself out without someone seeing. We've been just closing the solid door when he's there, since it's getting cold anyway, but that isn't a good long term solution.

It bothers me as well that a few times he's randomly freaked out when no one is in the bathroom, and I can't find a cause for that. Same behavior, but no obvious trigger for it.

I'm a bit at a loss, because his behavior seems to be getting worse (more generalized?) despite not having had the actual scary thing happen in weeks. The crazy thing is that he's actually less stressed when the beep is actively occurring than when he's anticipating it to occur. Poor little weirdo :(

Just curious as to what others with neurotic, noise sensitive dogs do to calm them down, and if it's common for the anticipation of scary event to be worse than reaction to actual scary event.
 

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