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Friday, 20 May 2011

Balloon phobia

My doberman is scared of hot-air balloons. He is four-years-old, and I have had him since he was eight-months.

Ty has always been a fearful dog but ever since a incident with a hot-air balloon letting the gas go right above us and very low when he was about a year old, his fear has worsened.

He now refuses to go out on his walk in the mornings, and is ok when he goes out in the afternoon, but refuses to go out again in the evening.

Hoping someone can help me help him.

Michelle, by email


  1. I have seen exactly the same situation Rachael. Those huge (red?) imposing balloons can be quite a shock and once you add the noise of the gas, it is any wonder animals get spooked. Ty is now so spooked he associates morning walks with that scary response.

    I would suggest it is a case of 'gently gently' and making any progress during the walk a pleasant experience. Give gentle praise when Ty is calm and give him frequent treats all the way from when you put on the lead, to the point you walk to. If he likes toys then perhaps have a little game along the route. When using the treats or toys it is important to start off using them before he becomes too stressy. This is where the ‘gently gently’ comes in.

    Set yourself targets. Morning one, perhaps just put his lead on whilst distributing treats and then take it off again. Morning two, put the lead on and walk him up to the front door and return. Morning three, open the front door, step outside and then back in. Morning four, walk him to the first lamppost and return etc. The whole time delivering yummy treats or having mini tug games. Build it up so you eventually get to where you normally walk to. When you get there you could even feed Ty his breakfast to make it a place worth going to!

    This will take time but by using this method you will keep him from being stressed, whilst all the time progressing. If he doesn't take the treats, it is a good possibility he is too stressed and you are progressing too quickly. Start from the last point of success which could be getting out the front door or reaching the third lamppost etc.

    Alternatively, if you could use this method to get him into the car, could you perhaps drive him to a different location? Again make it a pleasant experience, perhaps feed him his breakfast at the location (park?) and play some games. Over time he will accept that walks do happen in the morning as they did before this scary event.

    Hot air balloons are an issue and if you can't avoid them in future then Ty's fear needs to be addressed. Perhaps contact local qualified behaviourist and work it through.

  2. Sounds like you need to enlist the help of a qualified behaviourist! That's not to say that you can't be helped in this format, but it would be rather a long-wined comment with potential for lots of little side-tracks depending on how Ty does at certain "levels", so it could get complicated for me, let alone you! Try the APDT website, they have a find-a-trainer search, which should be a good starting point for you.

    The main points right now, which are important, is not to force him out, if he doesn't want to go don't make him, try again in ten or twenty minutes; and if something does happen, or he reacts to something when you're out with him, try to act as if nothings happened & just carry on walking.