Ask the Trainer

Ask the Trainer: Keeping the Dogs Calm in a Chaotic Household

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Hi Kevin,
Both my boys are rescue dogs from bad history. We have had Fred for 7 years and Sam 4 and they are fabulous. Recently we have had a lot of upheaval in our home life with plenty of raised voices and the dogs are terrified. How can I calm them down without re-enforcing the terrified behavior. They have always been scared of raised voices and are both 8 years old now. They deserve a calm quiet life and no fear. Please help!
-Nikki W

Hi Nikki,
This can actually be easier to fix than you think.

What you will need is 2 people, ( you can be one of them) a high value reward, ( either the same for both dogs or something different if they have different tastes) and both dogs.

Start off by just having a normal conversation with the other person. While doing it just randomly start tossing the dogs the high value reward. Your goal is going to be to start increasing your voice level and agitation. Continue on with the conversation and start to raise your voice a little bit. Keep tossing the rewards. Basically you want to build up your conversation into an argument. If done at the right pace the dogs will barely notice that you are shouting.

Basically, our goal is to get the dogs to think that when someone shouts, good things come. Other things that could help are Thundershirts and DAP ( Dog Appeasing Pheromone.)

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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