Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Vizsla Freak-Outs

What do all these items have in common? They have all caused Captain to freeeeaaaaak out with what we call his "wooowoooowoooo" bark.  Maybe you know the one. Loud. Deep. Body stretched out, head low and slightly tilted, eyes fixed on the "item of terror" with a complete look of "what the hell is that????!!!"

I love Captain to bits, and I never want him to be uncomfortable, but sometimes the things he flips out about are just too funny.

Now, many dogs are afraid of certain things- thunder, fireworks, the FedEx man (ok that last one might be more of a vendetta than a fear)- but it seems to me the things Vizslas freak out about can be a little.....different.

Vizsla Freak-Outs!

For example. The first time we realized Captain could react a little strangely to an item we thought was pretty normal was when we brought home some Alpaca. No, not the animal. The wool. I've mentioned this on the blog before, but picture this: we're unpacking after a trip to Peru (lucky, I know... we haven't gone anywhere that cool in 3 years. Oh wait, we haven't really gone anywhere in 3 years. Anyway). My husband, in typical husband style, takes a few days to unpack and leaves his suitcase in the living room. When he musters the energy to miraculously pull the last of the items from his suitcase, he throws a sweater he got (made of alpaca wool) over one our of dining chairs and leaves it there (because the dining room is the living room when you live in a 750 square foot apartment in downtown San Francisco). Captain came out from the bedroom, sniffing, and then started howling, and kind of slinking towards the chair while doing the "woowoowoo" bark. We both just stood there, bewildered, watching Captain bark for at least 5 minutes. And then started laughing. I mean, it was a sweater.

But, clearly the smell of alpaca was so completely foreign to Captain that he just didn't know what to think. I also got a small tapestry/runner made of alpaca, and Captain wouldn't stop barking at that when I unpacked it, so I just shoved it in our closet. A year later, after moving, I brought it out to hang it up, and of course he barked at it.... but I hung the damn thing up anyway. He barked at it for a day or two every time he walked by it, eyed it, sniffed it some more, and then forgot about it and seems to have decided it is no longer a threat. However, that didn't stop him from suddenly barking at a red wool scarf I have that had been hanging on a rack in my office for about a year (one day it must have just been threatening), or running up to a woman at a dog park in a big fuzzy black sweater and started barking at her. The woman, luckily not too concerned about the barking and not weirded out by my question, "Sorry about that.... I think he may have been barking at your sweater- what's it made of?" didn't even need to say what I already knew: "It's made of alpaca." Yup.

Another big one for us has been blimps. This I kind of get too. I mean, it's a giant thing in the sky. Why is is it in the sky? And why is it SO BIG? It is a giant fat slow moving bird?? This was when we lived in the city, right by the ball park, and we were at the dog park right next to the stadium. All of sudden, the blimp floats into view from behind AT&T stadium, and Captain looks up in a complete gaze of terror. I swear his eyes got wider, and he cowered, and then went off. It was another 5-10 minute "woowooowoo" barking session. And again, I couldn't help laughing a little bit.

Then there are other oddities that have led to our Vizsla freakin' out:
  • a child car seat sitting on a porch
  • a Weber grill being pulled down the sidewalk
  • My husband's feet- Captain doesn't bark at them, but he does jump about a mile in the air any time my husband puts his feet anywhere near him. We have no idea why this started. Although my husband does have very large feet, and a pretty weird looking bunyon on one of them... ;)
  • an overturned bike lying in a park
  • a ceiling fan
  • a man with his child on his shoulders (I can only imagine what kind of weird creature Captain initially thought that was). 
Most of these were firsts- it's the unknown, out-of-place, or weird-looking things that set off a "freak out." These were more common when Captain was a puppy- weird hats, strange looking men, the first time he saw someone in a wheelchair- but the freaks outs still happen every now and then (he barked at the grill this weekend- our neighbor was moving it to his front yard).

Related to "freak outs," Vizslas can develop anxieties. Training can help with more serious issues, but I think exercise helps too! I have also heard it helps to not baby them too much (very, very difficult for a Vizsla mommy, I know) when they are scared, since it reinforces that they should be scared about the thing. Instead, treats, encouragement, and acting like things are normal seem to help. New and different is often scary, so it's good to be understanding, encouraging, and let your dog sniff the new object so they know it's not some kind of intruder.

Luckily, none of Captain's "freak outs" have become big issues, and we've learned ways of helping Captain navigate the world. He had some separation anxiety as a puppy, so we worked on leaving him alone for short periods of time until we could work up to actually having an evening out, and a nice long puppy play beforehand always helped. Like other dogs, he also doesn't love thunder or fireworks, but he's grown accustomed to these things over time. He also flipped the first time he saw our vacuum cleaner, but my husband left it out for a day so Captain could sniff it and get used to it. He didn't bark at the vacuum after that, but he still gets that "Oh crap" look when I bring it out, and does a little dance every time I vacuum... running away from it, but always directly to the spot where I need to vacuum....

What's your take?
What funny "freak outs" has your Vizsla had?
Does your Vizsla have any serious anxiety issues?

And now you are thinking: words, words, words.... I thought this Vizsla blog had pictures.....
Captain's advice: cuddle under a blanket if you're scared.


  1. :-) nice story! Our Vizsla Faldo does his "wooooowoooo" every first monday of the month. In The Netherlands we have a monday morning alarm every first monday of the month and he always "sings" along with it.

    1. Our Vizsla definitely does the woooowooo barking but not for the same things. When he was a puppy my husband wouldn't baby him and would make him face his fears alot of the time so he is pretty good for a vizsla but ours must be a creature of habit cause anything object out of place really gets him going.Whenever he sees so much as a plastic bag laying on the ground outside or a box that he doesn't think belongs he starts his howling, lowering down and stretching out. It could be items he sees everyday but if something big is out of place he goes crazy. Also he freaks out on people at the dog park that where hats and dark glasses. Unless they make an effort to pet or aknowledge him he will not stop barking at them.

    2. Our Vizla Ruckus is afraid of wind because it makes things rattle. My husband had to dismantle the fan above the stove and use duct tape to ensure it no longer moves during a windy day. He has gotten better since he is the head of the household now and he has to be brave for the younger one.
      Our Vizsla Honey is afraid of bags flying across the road, flags flapping in the wind, bikes and motorbikes just sitting on the lawn and gets quite anxious during thunderstorms. Also any "sparklie" on the wall i.e. light that is moving will get her wound up so much I am concerned that she will hurt herself so we have to ensure that never happens.
      Both of the them went nuts the couple of times they have seen a balloon fly over the house.

  2. Allie had separation anxiety when we first brought her home, and it took us a long time to help her get over it. We still take her almost everywhere with us though. She thinks the car is her big kennel.

    The only thing she is afraid of is...flies. Not bees, she tries to eat those, just flies. Silly girl. We try to do something fun with her when she sees one, or she will go hide in the bedroom.

  3. Willum isn't much afraid of anything. But I totally know the bark you mean. We have a security monitor in the living room that shows what's happening in the driveway, and Willum figured out that what was happening on that screen was what was happening outside (VERY useful for watching when daddy is due to be home)

    Problem is, he now thinks EVERYTHING on TV is really happening. Watched a werewolf movie recently. NOT a happy Vizsla...

  4. My guy runs with me in Central Park and he is freaked out by runners who look weird or going too slowly. Hes very intolerant!

  5. LOL, your Captain's fears had my husband and I cracking up. Our V, Teddy, also has a fear of feet but this includes all feet, if they're not on the floor and anywhere near touching him. Also grills, and stoves, microwaves and the stove hood vent(only when these things are on). I think this is my fault; when he was a young pup, his nose got within about 2 inches of a hot Old Smokey grill and when I looked over and saw this, I screamed, "NOOO!!!" Oh and also, life sized cardboard statues of, "the most interesting man", the Dos Equis man. LOL Oh, and he"ll scratch the door to go out, we open it.......and he runs away......still in the house. Someone accidentally shut the door too quickly, one time, when letting Teddy outside. OOPS!! He does the WOOWOOWOO for feet and life-sized cardboard statues of "the most interesting man" oh and for a Christmas song-singing stuffed gingerbread man; for the other things...he just hides. They are sensitive dogs but that's also what makes them so sweet and affectionate. Best dogs E-V-E-R!!!

  6. My V, Vega's freak outs started when he was a puppy. He particularly was afraid of things he wasn't used to seeing at that time such as a bag on the ground or a flag stuck in the lawn on Memorial Day. He has also been know to bark at the following: 1) bikes going by us when we are on a run 2) Also a couple of times when running and I have no idea why, but he specifically became terrified of an old asian lady. I know, it's very strange. 3) The blue laundry basket 3) Footsteps upstairs when he is downstairs.4) My youngest daughter's sudden appearances, and most recently 5) Parakeets. This list really made me laugh so I had to add to it!

  7. Our Amber was terrified of people with lg backpacks. You know the kind that are used for backpacking. She would go into the woods and follow us from a distance until we passed them. And t-storms, we finally convinced her that they were "giant squirrels. She would do the wiggle butt dance.. She was a goof that's for sure and that's why we loved her so!

  8. Princeton's worst fear is of our sliding screen door. Yes. For Real. Even if I walk towards it he will run back under the kitchen table to get away.
    When he was young he tried to go through the dog door, tried to back out of it instead of just going through, and ripped the screen door off. He has never, and will probably never get over it... I wish he liked our porch!!