Q: How Do I Get My Pitbull To Overcome Her Fears Of Common Household Objects?

August 1, 2011 | By Mike M. | 2 answers | Expired: 1638 days ago

I have a pitbull named Gia who is probably almost 2 years old now. My older brother (25y.o.) got her from a friend, who got her from a police officer, who rescued her from an abusive home in Chester, PA (which everyone knows is a bad, scary, and violent city). The friend he got Gia from could not keep her because the pitbull they already had did not like Gia very much. My brother has had Gia since she was 7 months old and has trained her to be a great, friendly dog. The only small problem we have with her is that she is VERY AFRAID of certain objects and we dont know why. She is VERY AFRAID of: Metal Pots and Pans, Shiny Metal Bowls, Aluminum Cooking Trays, Water Guns, BB Guns, Airsoft Guns, ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSHES, MIRRORS, HAIR CLIPPERS, and BALLOONS. We figure she developed the fear of guns from growing up in Chester, which is a city filled with Guns. Maybe she witnessed her owner shooting a gun, or beating her with a gun, or seeing another person with a gun, etc. But we cannot for the lives of us figure out why she is afraid of the Cooking Trays, Bowls, Pots, Pans, Electric Toothbrushes, Mirrors, Hair Clippers, or Balloons. Whenever she sees the toy guns or any of these other objects she starts barking at us as if we're going to hurt her. We're her owners and take very great care of her and she just starts VIOLENTLY barking at us to the point where we almost think she's going to attack us. We try to show her that these objects are safe by holding them and letting her sniff them, using them ourselves, TELLING HER that they're ok, etc. but it doesnt help. She sniffs them and just keeps on barking. HOW DO WE GET HER TO OVERCOME HER FEARS OF THESE COMMON HOUSEHOLD OBJECTS?!

Readers' Answers (2)

Aug 04, 2011

Oddly enough, most dogs are afraid of guns even if they've never seen them before. It's also not uncommon for dogs to be nervous around shiny objects or items that make noise {like an electric toothbrush}.

My guess would be the months of abuse left some emotional scars that have made her overly sensitive to the objects she doesn't understand. Psychological damage can manifest into aggression towards everyday items, as can a lack of socialization to them. Gia's afraid of these things so she's thinking if she growls and barks and acts tough, she'll be able to frighten them away. You just need to increase her confidence around them through desensitization and positive association.

For now, put all the toy guns away and only use them when she's not around. You'll get to those eventually, but first focus on more everyday items. Start with the pots and pans and trays - things you do use inside on a regular basis. I would also suggest holding off with the toothbrush, shutting her out of the bathroom while it's in use, b/c noisy items do take more time and you don't want to overwhelm her.

Pick up a pan and tuck in under your arm so she can casually see it. Without looking at her, walk right passed her like you're busy with something else, and drop a treat when you pass her. Repeat several times. Oven roasted skinless, boneless chicken cut into small pieces is a good treat to use b/c it's low in calories and she'll be eating a lot of it. When this method isn't such a big deal for her anymore, repeat it by walking with the pan in your hand.

When Gia's comfortable with these steps, you'll want to up the ante by bringing her in closer. Sit in the room with one of these shiny objects in your hand and offer it to her. The second she touches it with her nose you say, "Good girl" and give her a treat. Don't act excited, or she'll get wound up. Remember to lower the object when you treat her b/c you'll have to offer it to her again. As her confidence progresses, start repeating this last step with various shiny objects so she learns to trust all of them.

In time you'll have to repeat all of these steps with the guns and the toothbrush and balloons. While you're desensitizing her, also work on basic obedience, or tricks if she's already learned that. What this will do is raise her confidence level so she's more apt to deal with the new situations. Dogs love to please us, so when we train them it gives them the opportunity to see a challenge and complete it, which gets them a treat and praise and our approval.

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Aug 02, 2011

Maybe these objects is how she was abused they could have shot her with the guns without leaving marks and alot of dogs are scarred of balloons for no reason at all Skitters has been scarred of balloons since she was a puppy and has gotten brave enough that she has destroyed several birthday balloons. I would say try and show her that the objects are okay some how and show her some how that you are not going to hurt her with them. Oh this is a hard one I would talk to a vet or a dog trainer to figure out what you can do. You may have to keep her in another room for now when you are using these objects. I know show her the object let her sniff of it and then give her a treat or give her a treat when ever you take out one of these objects so she knows it's okay cause every time they come out she is rewarded with food she will think it is a good thing when they come out.

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