Helping a Dog Afraid of Ceiling Fans
This was the email subject line from a client, and I couldn’t help, but wonder if this was really true. After scheduling a private consult with this client, and viewing videos she recorded of her dog and the ceiling fan, I had a pretty good idea what was going on.
Was it the Ceiling Fan?
Oh yes, this dog was definitely afraid of the ceiling fan plus a few other novel items. When reviewing the dog owner’s recordings, it appears the dog became concerned when the ceiling fan was not moving and when it was slowing down. He would stare at the ceiling fan when it was still or run away, while growling, as it slowly spun to a stop. When the ceiling fan was spinning at high speed, the dog completely ignored it.
Interestingly, this dog behavior started with the living room ceiling fan and slowly expanded to other ceiling fans in the home. As we dove further into this fear, it seemed he was afraid of other novel household items, such as the exhaust fan turning on and sizzling on the stove. What’s interesting is that the exhaust fan was a new fear, but it predicted sizzling on the stove. This is a prime example of how anxious dogs can become fearful of new items.
Fear of Novel Items Happens
Anxious dogs can develop fearful reactions to novel household items. As for the cause of the fear, it could be anything from sound, movement of items, dancing shadows casted by an item to past negative experiences around an item. Fear of novel items can continue to include new items weekly or even daily.
How to Manage This Fearful Dog Behavior
Reducing a dog’s anxiety is the first step, which may require a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist. Next, it’s important to remove all scary items. When cooking, place your dog in a closed bedroom on the opposite end of the house. Give him a food stuffed toy and turn on a TV or sound machine to drown out exhaust fan or sizzling noises. As for the dog afraid of ceiling fans, keep the ceiling fan spinning on high.
Once your dog’s environment has been managed, it’s time to change his behavior. Pairing good things with scary things, at the dog’s pace, works extremely well. Toss food whenever your dog looks at the still ceiling fan. Soon, he learns that ceiling fans make cheese rain from the sky. Once your dog is comfortable around still ceiling fans, turn it on low and continue to toss food. Follow the same procedure for fear of the exhaust fan and sizzling.
If your dog becomes scared, stop the practice session immediately. It may be necessary to partner with a professional positive reinforcement dog trainer for best results, and inform your veterinary behaviorist that the dog’s behavior has regressed.