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When my dog sees or hears something scary, then she can go into full panic mode, and in there she is uncontrollable. For example fireworks. She can handle 1, max 2 explosions, after that it's full panic. In full panic, she keeps pulling with all the strength she has. I presume she's trying to run home. But I would prefer that she would come to me. Best result be no fear at all, but that's impossible.

She's not a large dog (19 kg) but if she pulls with full force when she is panicked, she has quite a lot of strength. I can handle it, but my girlfriend is having trouble holding on in these situations. Is there a way we could train her, that if she gets scared, she would come to me, or my girlfriend?

The problem is only outdoors. Indoors, she's not that scared, and somewhat controllable.

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Short answer: you cannot.

Panic is a sudden sensation of fear, which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with an animalistic fight-or-flight reaction. (Source)

When a human or animal is in panic, the higher brain functions (like reasoning and logical thinking, but also the ability to analyze a situation and learn from it) are deactivated. If you want to train your dog, you must do that when she's not panicked.


What you want to do is a desensitization training and counter-conditioning. You'll find many instructions online. The ones I find to be most useful are:

To summarize desensitization:

  • It's important that you always train when your dog is calm and that the training doesn't trigger the panic (because her brain cannot learn when panicked).
  • Use very special treats with a strong smell for the training. Your dog only ever gets those special treats during training, never outside of it. Those treats can be pieces of cheese, hotdog, raw steak (unseasoned) or anything else your dog absolutely loves.
  • Start the training with a loud noise that doesn't make her panic. If she shows fear, the noise is too loud and you need to start with a lower volume.
  • Create the noise (by dropping a metal bowl or playing fireworks sounds on your phone on low volume) and if she doesn't show fear, reward her with very special treats.
  • First train at home, where she has fewer problems. After a minimum of 1 week of training, if she reacts positively to the training, you can start doing the same training during a walk.
  • Take it slow! Such a training will take several weeks, probably months. If you go too fast and make her too uncomfortable, you can even worsen the situation and increase her panic.

Such a training can help your dog lose her fear, but if you're too impatient, you can make it even worse. Don't forget that you can always get professional help from a professional trainer. For desensitization training, you would usually have one training lesson every week or 2 weeks where you both review the progress you've made and the trainer gives you more instructions for the following week or 2. The rest of the training you do at home according to the instructions of the trainer.

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  • And how would you adress general anxiousness of the outdoors. This last winter and covid has been prutal as we havent been able to take long walks and now shes anxious about being outdoors.
    – Marko Taht
    Jun 2 at 15:45
  • @MarkoTaht I cannot answer this in the comments and your question is too general to give a useful answer. Please use the search function here on Pets.SE to find many questions about dog to dog aggression or anxiety. If you cannot find anything that fits your specific scenario, ask a new question and point out what exactly makes her anxious.
    – Elmy
    Jun 2 at 16:03

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