Sarah’s Pet Sitting is available for In Home Dog Training for Fearful Dogs and for a variety of other behavior issues. Please see our Training Page for more info.
Our Profesional Dog Trainer Laura CPDT has shared some information about Fearful dogs.
I don’t know how many ways I can say this, but it is so important when dealing with a dog that is afraid or nervous about a situation. FEAR IS NOT A BEHAVIOR, it is an emotion. Comforting the fearful dog will not make the dog more fearful, unless it is the only interaction the dog ever gets.
We can reinforce behaviors and train a dog to do behaviors on cue. We cannot teach a dog to experience a specific emotion on cue. So when your dog is frightened, don’t feel bad offering comfort, instead feel bad if you just leave your dog to get over it.
Without support and coping skills, fear continues to escalate and causes future problems with things that may not even seem related. Being anxious or afraid is a horrid feeling and can have repercussions on longevity, general health, and other stress related systems.
Counter conditioning and training new coping skills can and do help with many fear problems. So does some over the counter herbal supplements. I have had great success with L-Theanine. If you are having a more extreme problem, you may need to ask your vet about other drugs to help support your dog.
I have found the key to working with fear in dogs is to give the dog options. Make sure the dog never feels forced, conflicted, or trapped. Listen to what your dog is saying and go at the pace your dog dictates. If you don’t see progress, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING, take a look at your handling and try something else, or ask for more help.