Fearful Dogs – Can They Be Trained?
When a dog is fearful in any way (going either flight tor fight mode), it can be tricky approaching and tackling this behavior issue. While working with a dog trainer in Raleigh, we talked about how many owners don’t try much when dealing with fear, because they are concerned about making the fear worse. Often times, dog owners will coddle a fearful dog, hoping this will allow a dog to feel more comfortable and to trust the owners. It is important to go at a slow pace with fearful dogs, and to try to set them up for success and positivity as much as possible. However, it is important that by doing this, we are NOT saying that fearful behavior is okay, and should be accepted. If we want a fearful dog to overcome this fear, we cannot communicate that the fear is something to be expected and normal.
There are many signs of fear in the dog, and it’s usually easily detected through their body language: ears back, avoidant of eye contact, tail tucked in between legs, full body quivering, etc. The dog can retreat from whatever it’s making it fearful, refusing to confront it. Some fearful dogs WILL confront their fear, and many times they will do so aggressively. The aggression is their way of coping as well, and communicating some assertiveness so that the trigger can hopefully go away. For instance, a dog that is scared of dogs might snap or even try to bite a dog not because they want to actually harm the dog, but because they feel being dominant and aggressive will make the dog back off and leave them alone.
Whether your dog is choosing “flight or “fight”, the fear can be addressed and worked on so that your dog’s behavioral issues go away, and your dog has a chance to relax and be happy. The important thing is not normalize the fear, while also setting your dog up to gradually face the fear and find success. If you can pinpoint what is setting off your dog’s fear, then you have a head start. You do not want to overwhelm or flood your dog with the trigger, but rather slowly expose them under controlled circumstances where you can lead them and help them through this difficult time. It’s not about cooing them when they get upset, but showing them that they can be calmer and it will be okay and be more rewarding.
Every dog is different and fear comes in different forms and faces. Our in-home dog training programs will create a customized training plan that will specifically focus on your dog’s individual needs and fear issues, while also working with the owner to be a leader and accomplish their training goals. If you have a fearful dog and are unsure what to do to help them, call Raise the Bar Dog Training Cincinnati at 800-649-7297 and we’ll formulate a training regimen together!