Dog That's Afraid of the TV?

March 2, 2012

Sad looking dog wearing white, blue, and brown coat curled up on white chair with head down on TV remote.I have a Pug that's almost 4 years old. All of a sudden when she was standing in front of the TV, something flashed on the screen when it changed scenes and she ran behind the couch and now she won't come in the room when the TV is on. She has always accompanied us in the evening and sat beside us until bedtime. We can't coax her to come sit by us at all now. Any suggestions? She's never been abused and is a very spoiled dog. Thanks.


By Larry H. from Yuba City, CA


March 4, 20121 found this helpful
Best Answer

You need to associate the TV on with rewarding experiences for your pup. First, get some really good treat - something that your dog gets ONLY while doing this exercise. I suggest you use Natural Balance dog meat rolls or Pet Botanics (only at PetsMart) meat rolls. I'm a dog trainer and use these meat rolls for my training rewards. Cut a portion of the roll into small pea-size treats, a small bag full, be sure to refrigerate the roll and the pieces.

Carry your dog into the room (no treats yet), sit on the floor with her while you hold a treat in front of her nose, turn on the TV at the same time you give her the treat. Leave the TV on while you give her three more treats (1 treat every couple of seconds) and then turn off the TV. Repeat this step five times and then leave the room the last time you turn off the TV.


Repeat this exercise at least 2x/day with at least 2 hours between each exercise repetition, for at least 2 days OR until your dog shows NO fear when you reach to turn on the TV. The purpose of this is to teach your dog that turning on the TV results in her getting very special treats.

Once your dog is calm when you turn on the TV, you will repeat this exercise but this time give her one minute of treats. Not 60 treats, but at least 10, so that she learns the longer the TV is on, the more treats she gets. Every time you feed her a treat say, "Let's watch TV!" Repeat this exercise several times each day for three days.

Note: Be sure to make the treats a portion of her daily food allotment so You don't worry about her gaining weight and give her too few rewards. There is no reason for a dog to gain weight from meat roll treats; just make them a part of her overall food plan for the day.


Step 3 is to say to your dog, "Let's watch TV" and she should come running to the area you've been practicing. When she gets to you, give her a reward, turn on the TV and give her random rewards until the next commercial comes on. Then stop the rewards, let the TV run, and walk out of the room until the commercials are done. Then return to the room saying "let's watch TV", and repeat the random rewards until the next commercial.

Step 4 is to say "let's watch TV", go to your chair or sofa, give her random rewards the entire time the show is on. As the days go by, you'll be able to space out the amount of time between these rewards until you can simply give her a stuffed Kong or special bone when you start watching TV and that will be the end of the issue.


Words to the wise - do NOT rush this process or you'll only end up shooting yourself in the foot. Do NOT progress to the next step until she shows no fear at the current step. Never put her on a leash, wrap her in a blanket or hold her in your arms because she'll feel trapped and that only intensify her fear. Use a very special treat that she gets only for this exercise - do not use for other training purposes until she has successfully overcome this fear issue. And dry biscuits or her dry food won't cut it; use the meat roll or special cheese or whatever she thinks is the best reward in the world. This food reward is meant to please her, not to please you. Have fun while doing this exercise; laugh, play, keep it light. She needs to know that you think this a fun exercise not a pain for you to do to help her. Dogs are expert body language interpreters and if you sigh, grimace, or show frustration your dog will know it and you will be intensifying her fear.


Finally - Be sure that she doesn't have any peripheral eye issues or hearing issues that may have contributed to her fear of whatever happened on the screen.

Good luck! You and your sweet Pug can soon become good friends with the TV again!

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January 27, 2016

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.

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!


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.


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.

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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