Mia is a real sweetie. She is an 8-year-old Collie/Shepherd cross and sadly had to be found a new home due to her previous family’s change in circumstances. I could go on and on listing her good points.
However, Mia has a problem and it is getting worse. It started with her hearing a bang shortly after she arrived – a gunshot. She dropped to the ground shaking, and refused to move. Over time she has refused to go to places associated with bangs. Then she refused to go to places not knowingly associated with bangs. Loud noise as such is no problem. It’s sudden surprise bangs that terrify her.
Now Mia, nine times out of ten, simply refuses to get out of the car. This results in all sorts of ploys from her people like throwing her ball to one another to lure her, enticing her or bribing her. Only sometimes does this work.
Now she even drops down and refuses to move out of their driveway for a walk down the road – unikely to be associated with any bangs.
They feel they have tried absolutely everything. ‘Going on strike’ seems to be growing into a habit, reinforced by so much attention, fuss and concern. Although a dog’s hearing is a great deal more accute than our own, most of the time the people can hear nothing.
Mia is much of the time focussed on her ball, wanting it thrown or kicked. Out on walks there is little sniffing and exploring because of the ball. At home, her clever Collie brain is probably understimulated but she is repeatedly worrying over the ball.
So, they will remove balls and ration ball play, introducing brain and scenting games. They will spend as long as it takes walking her around the house and garden, as many times a day as they can, gradually advancing – out of the door but not attempting to go off the drive. When they do step beyond the drive they will come straight back again. All the time she is walking around calmly she can be earning some of her food.
If they see her slow down as though to go on strike, they will immediately and cheerfully turn around and keep her busy. This is a very good time to bring out that ball! I suggest that if she does drop down, to simply wait it out in silence. When she does eventually move, to turn around and go home without a word – like nothing has happened. Play it down.
Exiting the car will be dealt with in a similar way – broken down into small increments.
Most importantly they will work on the original root of the problem – Mia’s fear of bangs, starting with controlled bangs inside the house. She will learn that bangs are associated with either food or her beloved ball. She will learn to look at her people when she hears a bang.
Mia is very fortunate to live with such dedicated people who have the time to do these things. They love her to bits and recognise that as things are getting worse they need to do things differently in order to help her.