Laddie has always been a sensitive dog but he loved going out, he loved his walks and he also was happy to meet people and most other dogs.

That has now all changed.

It took just one careless firework set off behind their fence in an afternoon to terrify the six-year-old Rough Collie so much he wouldn’t go out. Since then lady has more or less had forced him out on walks.

Where before he was okay with gun shots, they now send him into a panic which is a problem living in a rural area.

Any location where he has heard a bang has become contaminated and he resists going there anymore. It’s coloured his whole life – and that of the lady he lives with. He’s scared of other things he was fine with before.

PTSD

I looked this up about treatment for PTSD in humans: ‘The main treatments for people with PTSD are medications, psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), or both. Everyone is different, and PTSD affects people differently, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another’.

With dogs we have medication and behaviour work as obviously talk therapy isn’t an option. As with humans, PTSD will affect dogs differently so the treatment should fit.

Bit by bit the places Laddie had been happy to walk have closed as he hears bird-scarers or shots. He’s reluctant to have his harness on or to go more than the few yards from his front door to the road.

The lady likes to walk him for a couple of hours a day and for him this is laced with fear. He’s on constant alert. She now holds him tight when a person or dog approaches as he will lunge and bark.

He feels constantly unsafe

I feel that taking him out on walks and subjecting him to his fears is worse than no walks at all. If this were a person with PTSD they would I’m sure not be expected to confront the things that terrify them until a lot of work had been done first and then it would be in a very controlled, systematic way.

We have two things to deal with. One is the walks and the other is bangs.

Working on walks

The walks start with his reluctance to have the harness put on. I suggest she gets him a comfortable fleece harness and puts it on before his breakfast and then just leaves it on all day. She will need the harness for the work she will do.

Now, several times a day, the lady will take him out of the front door on a long loose lead and watch or listen to the world. When people and dogs walk past she can immediately help him by turning back to the house whilst at the same time feeding him something tasty.

Anything resembling a bang and the lady can immediately say Yes and feed him. He will have the freedom to retreat if he so wishes.

Over time when he ventures further I suggest he decides when and where to walk – and how far to go. She will be building up his confidence in all other areas of his life also.

Working on bangs

Starting with small bangs like a spoon on the table accompanied by Yes and food she can gradually build up; she should vary the bangs. 

She can used fireworks and gunshots from YouTube, very soft indeed to begin with. It’s vital he’s never pushed over his comfort threshold, however long it takes. If life happens to throw them a bang that’s too loud, then they will just have to pick themselves up and go back to the stage where he’s okay and pick it up again from there. It could take a long time.

The vet has given him some meds which should help now that they are kicking in.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help