Atlas is getting more and more neurotic with age. He has started to freak out at certain objects (with no encouragement from us, there is no logical explanation for why he hates certain things).

His seemingly ever-growing list includes:
Windshield wipers
Playing cards
Credit Cards that are set down on surfaces
Lighters (he especially hates lighters)

I'm trying to work on positive conditioning... just like we did with cutting his nails. Distracting him with a treat while trying to downplay the existence of the other object and rewarding him for ignoring it, but he is intent on barking and growling at these objects it seems like all I can do is temporarily redirect his attention.
He'll listen to me if I say "No" most of the time, but he still will whimper and cry at the object and will often time give into his impulses and have a barking fit again.
Do I need a stronger diversion, do I need to bombard him with more positive experiences with these objects?

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He's two, and he growls and barks at the objects. Not in a playful way, but in a way that suggest he is fearful of them.
He will run into the room if he heres a playing card snap against the table or if he hears a candle being lit.
All of those objects are either lighted, moving, or reflective. Have you had his eyes checked? Is his pedigree PRA clear? If he has PRA, he's at the right age to start losing eyesight, and movement and reflections would be especially bothersome.

If it's not physical, let him investigate the objects thoroughly - if he starts barking at cards, put them down and calmly walk away. Let him come up and sniff them all over; if he jumps back and barks and then comes forward a tiny bit at a time that's fine. Let him do it until he's satisfied that it's no threat. Then come back and pick them up again. Don't correct him, because he's reacting in fear. Correcting fear reinforces it - not only are the cards evil, the cards are associated with punishment.

But I really do mean it about the eyes. If you are unsure of his PRA status, it is well worth finding an ophthalmologist and getting an exam.
Thanks for the response.
It's actually the noise that seems to bug him (I should've probably explained this).
If it's a typical cigarette lighter used to light the candles he freaks out when it's sparking, and the same thing with the clicker lighter. But he has absolutely no problem with a lit candle, and if I just hold the lighter while it's lit, he's a little apprehensive about it and may bark a few more times, but he calms down.

A couple nights ago we were playing cards, and I brought him up on my lap, the table was full of cards and everyone had them in their hands too. He was fine until he heard a card snap when it was played and he started freaking out. I brought him back up on my lap again a few minutes later when he calmed down, and the same thing happened: he was doing pretty well (a little apprehensive but not barking or growling) and then if a card was layed too loudly he'd get upset.
Every so often Finnigan will react to something new this way (growling and barking) but while he becomes very alert, I can also see that he gets very jumpy. I've found that helping him confront and explore diminishes his fear. When he reacts that way toward an object I approach the object and touch it (he'll inch closer) then let him smell the hand I touched it with (inching even closer and becoming less jumpy) then I place one hand on the object (sometimes acting like I'm petting it) and reach out to him with my other hand (he'll sniff then relax more and walk up to the object). Once he is sniffing the object directly I will pet him and praise him. I've done this since he was a little puppy and it always removes his fear of the object. He now rarely encounters an object that scares him but when he does, this method still works.
I have had luck talking to and petting objects the dogs find alarming as well.

I also use Kerry's method of saying "Thank you, everything's fine" when Jack is sounding the alarm over nothing. Part of his job is to guard the place and I figure it's up to him to alert me if anything is unusual, and up to me to assess the level of threat.

The only thing I've actually corrected them for barking at (by saying a very firm "No!") is the paperboy, since they seemed to think the paperboy was trying to rob us and it was only their barking every morning (well before our alarm goes off) that was saving us. Since they have learned the mailman and UPS driver are not threats, I figured they could learn the same about the paperboy.
Lilliput has always had lots of weird fears and phobias. I have been seriously worried about her, but her fears have decreased as she grew older (she's 3.5 now.) Depending on how strong the issue was I would use a technique like Sam describes, or ignore it. The ignoring can be "thanks for telling me," and moving on, or just walking away, leaving her to realize that her "freak out" was not being shared by anyone important around her.

Some of her fears have been quite creative. She's was scared of collars, so she recognized a collar still stapled on its cardboard packaging for what it was, and even ran away from a nearly empty duct tape roll (round like a collar.)

Most fears were grown out of, with ignoring and minimal acknowledgment. I am still careful when walking with a leash not to let it fall in front of her eyes and startle her, and thunderstorms and Mr. Vacuum Cleaner are still major issues. But there's hope for these phobias Atlas is having. Just be careful not to over react so he thinks there really IS something to be scared of.

Julia
Lilliput has always had lots of weird fears and phobias. I have been seriously worried about her, but her fears have decreased as she grew older (she's 3.5 now.) Depending on how strong the issue was I would use a technique like Alice describes, or ignore it. The ignoring can be "thanks for telling me," and moving on, or just walking away, leaving her to realize that her "freak out" was not being shared by anyone important around her.

Some of her fears have been quite creative. She's was scared of collars, so she recognized a collar still stapled on its cardboard packaging for what it was, and even ran away from a nearly empty duct tape roll (round like a collar.)

Most fears were grown out of, with ignoring and minimal acknowledgment. I am still careful when walking with a leash not to let it fall in front of her eyes and startle her, and thunderstorms and Mr. Vacuum Cleaner are still major issues. But there's hope for these phobias Atlas is having. Just be careful not to over react so he thinks there really IS something to be scared of.

Julia
My male dog went through a phase of "freaking out" about 2...he hated the garbage trucks and airplanes. He never had issues before...just happened overnight. He would shake with fear! Very emotional for us. We had our trainer come in and we used “positive” treat training, DAP collars and calming treats. We even had him meet the garbage man (this guy was so nice about it). We even started agility classes to help him with his confidence and it helped. Maybe 6 to 7 months later, he just stopped shaking with fear and now he doesn't really react when he hears the garbage truck and airplanes. If he sees the garbage truck that is still a slight problem. I can distract him with treats (I keep tons in my pockets) and “look at me” command and it does work. Keep up with the postive training, it does help and with time things will get better with time. Good luck!
It's the noise that bothers him. My corgi Peanut has a problem with outside water faucets. He used to hate the shower faucet too, but finally he's ok with that. I only have to WALK by the outside faucet and he goes NUTS. If I turn it on he goes into a real frenzy! Unfortunately I park next to it, so he goes ballistic if he sees me get into my car. I know leave him gated in the kitchen with our puppy Tulip so he can't see me, this helps. He also hates the vacuum, but he's trained to go upstairs when it comes out. We had Rotty Husky mix once that would 'sing' along with certain tools my husband, who is a cabinet maker, would use. Buddy would make different howling sounds depending on the tool. It was hysterical! And he was always at the shop with my husband so anyone customers who would visit got a show! LOL
LOL Shiro trained himself to go under the futon when the vacuum is on. As soon as I touch this thing he darts uder and lets out short quiet barks. As soon as I'm done and the vacuum is put away he comes out like nothing happened. Same thing with opening umbrella! Heck, I have to walk him without it when it rains otherwise he'd be all scared the entire way and won't do his business!

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