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Dog Suddenly Afraid of Whistles on TV?

My 4yo Chihuahua/Shih Tzu has always sat on the sofa with us watching TV. A few weeks ago he started barking at basketball on the news. It has now spread to any show that has sports. Then for some reason he started running behind the sofa to sleep under the desk. He refuses to sit with us.

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I figured out today that anytime a whistle blows on the TV he is terrified! He panics and shakes and runs under the desk. I have no clue why this suddenly occurred. I have tried holding him and trying to soothe him, also tried getting excited to hear the whistle as if it were something good. No luck. He has never had trouble with it before. He is in good health.
Help would be amazing!

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January 30, 20161 found this helpful

You need to desensitize your dog to the whistle. This means buying a whistle. Try giving a treat whenever you very briefly blow the whistle. This should work.

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It doesn't matter how it happened. This happens to dogs more than you'd think. It starts with getting spooked by something and snowballs into a full blown phobia.

Unfortunately, the two things you tried will make the problem worse. First, comforting the dog only reinforces the behavior. You're actually rewarding the fear with your comfort. Note this is different with human kids, but dogs aren't human.

Second, acting excited to hear the whistle just feeds energy into the phobia. In other words, it adds more energy to the emotional state the dog is already in.
In order to desensitize the dog, reward with something like a treat but do not get excited, speak, use his name, or move much while doing it. Start with short blasts of the whistle.

By the way, many dogs who get fears have too much nervous energy. Be sure you're walking your dog outdoors, and not just to go to the bathroom. Even little dogs need exercise. Also, you might need to start your dog on a training program to increase his focus and also drain energy through concentration.

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The next time your dog shows a fear of anything normal, immediately correct him as if he's done something wrong. This seems unfair, but again, dogs aren't human and won't think of it that way. You must provide leadership for your dog in the case of things he doesn't understand.

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