Good Dog Blog

Are you nurturing your dog’s fears?

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Are you unknowingly encouraging the fear your dog is feeling?

When someone we know (friend, family member, co-worker, child even someone we don’t know) gets frightened of something, as humans our first impulse is to comfort them. We might tell them “everything will be ok” or “don’t worry about it”. We might put our arm around them, give them a hug, hold their hand, pat them or stroke their head, all in a effort to sooth them and make them feel better.  All of these things generally help to make the person feel better and let’s face it we can use reason and logic with a human (well most).

When a dog is fearful of something (people, other dogs, an object) what is your first impulse? To do what you know, right? Admit it, all the same things right? That is because we are human! Funny thing though, the dog IS NOT HUMAN! So when you stroke, pat, hug, kiss and talk in soothing tones to your dog when he is in a frightened state of mind what he hears is “I like you being frightened” and “keep on feeling that way” and you are nurturing the very behavior you don’t want. Now clearly this is not your intention so how do you help to relieve his fears? One word-desensitization! That which he is afraid of, he needs more of. It’s the same for people really-Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is certain-Brian Tracy. No truer words were ever spoken.

Now with some things your dog is afraid of you can help him on your own such as, fear of an object in his environment. Common things are vacuum cleaners, trashcans, bicycles, cars, different floor surfaces the sound of  things like power tools, blow dryer, the toaster etc. You’ll probably need professional dog training to help you with things like separation anxiety, fear based aggression towards people or dogs and other serious cases.

A slow gradual desensitization program is best for most things. By having  the dog be near that which he is frightened of and not allowing him to flee (by using a leash) and by your quiet confidence(no talking please) and by allowing the dog to walk away only once he is in a relaxed state (reward the calm behavior), which might take a few minutes. You empower him to learn that nothing bad happened! Socializing and exposing your dog to any and all things in his environment makes for a happy, well adjusted dog that you can take anywhere. Now isn’t that what having a dog is all about?

Need professional dog training help? Call us! We can help you with these and many more dog behavioral issues.

Terie Hansen
Owner, Good Dog! Coaching & Pet Care

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