Helping your Fearful Dog

Some dogs are extremely nervous or frightened in new situations. How you handle this fear can make the difference between a well adjusted dog and a dog that is afraid of her own shadow. To help a do g w ith her fears do the following:

Always be calm! Do not grab or chase the dog or force her into a situation because she is “acting silly”. This will only confirm to her that the world is indeed scary and so are you! Instead, use controlled body movement and a quiet voice. This will help to show your dog that you are a good leader and that you do not intend to hurt her.

Many people want to tell their dog that “its okay, the (blank) won’t hurt you.” This is meant to be reassuring but since dogs don’t understand English they think that you are praising them for being fearful. Instead, act happy and show her that there is nothing to be afraid of. If she continues to be scared after 3-5 minutes, remove her from the situation and try again later.

Be your dog’s advocate! Many people do not know how to interact with a scared dog so they will invade the dogs space and try to pat it on the head. This can be very nerve racking for an insecure dog so make sure to be proactive and tell people to refrain from petting her if she is nervous.

Carry yummy treats or your dog’s favorite toy. If every time your dog comes across a “scary person or situation” she gets a treat or special playtime with her favorite toy it will help her to realize that the world is not that scary after all.

Instigate a game of tug of war with the dog and LET her win. This will help her to build confidence.

Do some obedience training. Most fearful dogs are insecure. Through obedience training they learn that they can be successful. Make sure that all training is done in a gentle and controlled manner.

Always set your dog up for success! You want to build her confidence so only put her in situations where you know she will be confident and happy. If you are asking her to complete the task, start at a very easy level and SLOWLY move forward. This will help her to build confidence in herself as well as in you as a leader.

Praise the victories! You probably won’t see a big improvement overnight, but you will start to notice small victories. Every time your dog does something good, praise her like she is the BEST DOG in the whole world. Make sure to keep your praise and love at a level that your dog enjoys. Many nervous dogs would prefer a soft and soothing rub to a hard pat on the top of the head.