NERVOUS AND FEARFUL DOGS
Written by Laura Christiansen, National Dog Trainer of the Year
A dogs’ personality is formed by genetics, early learning experiences or lack of experiences, owner influence (dog parenting) dog friends and family interactions, early training and education.
As loving dog owners it is essential we understand and accept our own dogs’ inherent nature. Does your dog appear nervous, anxious or fearful of certain or all new situations?
The following tips can help:
Dogs are experts at reading your body language so practice staying calm and relaxed.
Well-meaning dog owners may try to reassure a frightened dog by petting and baby talk telling them “its’ ok” but this behavior may actually draw attention to the situation and tells the dog you are just as concerned as they are! Your dog will feel safer if you show confidence!
Build your dogs’ confidence through positive training.
Create positive associations by using high value treats and toys.
Continue to socialize your dog but proceed slowly by briefly exposing the dog to the lowest level of threat. Example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs you could stand at a safe distance outside of a pet store as owners and dogs walk in. Point and say “Wheres’ the dog?” as your dog sees the other dog at safe distance praise and treat. After many repetitions of pairing the sight of a dog with treats you should start to notice your dog seems less concerned. You can start to move closer but don’t go too fast. Be patient. These things take time! You must always work under your dogs’ threshold of tolerance!
If your dog gets startled or frightened by something be matter of fact, act like its’ not that big of a deal. Laugh it off and tell your dog “you’ll be brave someday’! Now casually move away from the situation.
Never force your dog into a situation they are not comfortable with.
All young dogs go through fear periods and reactivity levels can rise generally between 6 – 14months. A dog can become more protective or territorial or fearful. Continue to socialize during this time but avoid exposing the dog to overwhelming situations.
If your dog seems overly fearful, anxious or nervous you must seek the help of an experienced trainer/behaviorist at once.
We are caretakers of our precious animals so do not delay to seek the help you need before fearful behaviors progress.