How to Help a Fearful Dog
21 July, 2014
If you have adopted a dog that has come from an undesirable or unstable environment, it will be no surprise that he is fearful of you and most likely, his or her new surroundings.   Usually the dog has not been properly socialized and lacks the proper introduction to different people, animals, places and things during his or her prime puppyhood or sometimes adult socialization period.  A dog can also be fearful from an early emotional trauma, physical abuse or simply not getting enough social interaction.

Shyness and fear are problematic traits that can lead to aggression and biting so it is best to deal with the situation from the start. And, as loving pet owners, it is our responsibility to help puppies or dogs to become confident, stable dogs.

Below are some tips to help.

Make all learning experiences and situations a positive one
In all situations, it’s important to present a happy persona and tone of voice. Make it clear that even walking the dog, eating his food, and each encounter that is presented to your pup is fun and positive.  Each dog has his own set of fears; therefore, make sure to treat each situation as a new one and each positive outcome needs to be rewarded with a loving gesture and/or treat.


How to deal with a dog who is fearful of people

If your dog is shy around a particular type of person, maybe a man for example, you should have a man prepare your dog’s meals. If your dog is fearful of someone in the family, consider the possible reasons.  Maybe that family members speaks in a loud voice, makes a lot of noise or sudden movements, or tends to invade the space of your dog.  If this is the case, the particular family member should try to tone down his or her behavior with your encouragement.

If your pup’s fear relates to the size or gender or physical traits of a person, work daily to let that person be the one to feed, walk and eventually play with the dog. The objective is to have the dog realize that good things happen with this person, that he must depend on this person for interaction, and that he or she can be trusted and will not hurt him.
During the weeks that you are working on this counter-conditioning of your fearful dog, as hard as it is, try to limit the interaction your dog has with you.  You can play with your pup and provide him with a secure feeling, but it is important that you allow the new person the daily interactions.  You want this person to be the relied person so your dog realizes that he is dependent on him or her for good things such as food, treats, fun and exercise.  Once this is established, you both can now be a part of your dog’s daily life.
Please be patient, and avoid pushing your dog too quickly. It takes time, but this approach nearly always works. The goal is to have your dog realize that other people can be trusted and to learn how to interact with all family members in a positive way and reduce his or her fear.
Your dog is fearful of other dogs
Start off by introducing your fearful dog to a smaller dog who you know is friendly and relatively calm. As your dog begins to get comfortable, gradually introduce him or her to dogs of larger sizes and more active behavior.  Try to avoid interactions with rough and tough dogs, or you will have a setback.  And you will have setbacks, but that’s OK.  Just leave for the day and come back another time.
A good environment for socialization with other dogs, especially puppies, is a carefully supervised puppy or play group. Or if you have a neighborhood dog park where you already know the other dogs, this could be a good way to make introductions.  Make sure that your dog and the other dog that are ‘meeting’ are both wearing a leash so you can control the situation if your dog becomes frightened.
While these are just the basics and there might be other situations which causes your dog to be fearful, the key factors to remember are to start slowly, be patient, and always be positive and loving.  It could take a few weeks or even months depending on your dog and how fearful he or she is.  But, with love, caring and practice, you can help your dog overcome his or her fears and be a happy well- adjusted dog.


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