Some dogs are nervous or frightened in new situations-some people are too! But 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 your dog with 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 only sense the anxiety in your voice and think that you are scared too! Instead, act happy and show her that there is nothing to be afraid of. If she is afraid of an object (like a trash can) have a party with it! It sounds silly but touch and talk to the object in a happy and excited voice. If she sees you interacting with “the monster” and not dying, she will start to think the object is okay! 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 dog’s space trying to convince her that there isn’t anything to be afraid of but instead they confirm to your dog that they are scary! So make sure to be proactive and tell people to refrain from petting your pup if she seems uncomfortable.
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.
Do some obedience training. Most fearful dogs are insecure. They are afraid of making the wrong decision. Through obedience training they not only learn that they can be successful but that they can trust you. 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.