If your dog is fearful, we are facing atype of behavior that must be corrected. Let’s see what we can do to calm down our four-legged friend
One of the reasons why dog owners frequently turn to a dog trainer is when his dog is afraid.
There are many circumstances in which our four-legged friends can get frightened and many attitudes, situations, or objects that can trigger a reaction of fear. There are dogs that are afraid of people in general, children, men in hats, cars and motorcycles, atmospheric agents (like thunder, wind, etc.), and so on.
My Dog Is Fearful: Identify the Cause
The reasons why a dog is afraid are not always easy to identify. For instance, your dog’s phobias can be related to negative experiences as a puppy, abandonment in the case of abandoned dogs, or abuse in its past.
However, it also depends in part on the character of the dog. Naturally, there are dogs that are more submissive than others, and they are more likely to be afraid.
What do dogs do when they are afraid?
- Hid in a safe place,
- Salivate excessively,
- Put their tails between their legs and try to escape,
- Feel panic and anxiety.
But a fearful dog is not only the one that shows certain attitudes or that hides, trembles, and puts its tail between its legs. Sometimes, fear turns into aggression as a defensive reaction against what a dog considers a threat.
Because of the multifaceted nature of the problem, it is very difficult to identify the measures that should be taken and that are appropriate for each occasion. It should not be forgotten that each dog is an individual with its own temperament, genetic background, and experience.
Hence, each case must be evaluated individually so as to identify the right course of action. However, there are some general principles that underlie any educational intervention when a dog is afraid.
My Dog Is Fearful: What to Do?
We must represent a secure base for it. As in nature, a leader is not the most “dominant” or the most aggressive, but the strongest in the sense of authority. This is how we have to be for our loyal friend; this is the type of leader it needs.
Our dog must perceive that we are self-confident, calm, and balanced. Our dog must perceive that we can defend it from what seems like a threat. Only in this way, our dog will feel protected and will acquire more self-confidence.
For instance, if your dog is afraid of the big black bags of garbage, dumped outside the containers, give it a “test of courage” (at least to its eyes): Get close to the object that scares it and touch it.
By doing so, your dog will understand that there is nothing to be afraid of and little by little it will imitate us and will try to get closer to said object.
My Dog Is Fearful: “Distract” It from That Which Frightens It
The more your dog observes the object or person it fears, the more its mind will be blocked, and it will not be willing to take another step. So how can we distract him?
Focus the dog’s attention on us: This does not mean that we only have to distract it for a moment (by showing it some food, for instance), because the effect would be short and, after a few minutes, the animal’s psyche would return to focus on the object that causes its phobia, and it will immerse itself again in its state of anxiety and terror.
Once again, we must be the center of interest for our four-legged friends. Our dog must think that everything he does with us is beautiful and desirable.
How to do it? For example, you can attract your dog’s attention with a game. But playing doesn’t mean staffing it with balls, rubber bones, or other toys. Playing with your dog means interacting with him.
The owner must be an active part in a dog’s life. He must have fun with his dog. Some games are hide and seek, hide an object, or tag (obviously, the dog will always take advantage because it is much faster than you, but the good thing will be to make it win and see it happy and satisfied!).
My Dog Is Fearful: Distract It with A Game
By playing, you can gradually induce your dog to get closer and closer to what scares it. For example, if your dog is afraid of children, you can ask a child to stand near you and wait without getting close, while you place the dog at a certain distance, so that it does not feel threatened. To distract it from the child, play with it; you can make him chase you to try to take the toy it likes so much and that you have in your hand.
As you do this, get closer and closer to the child, and it may happen that the dog no longer notices his presence until it is a few meters away. Maybe, at that moment, you dog will be afraid again, but in the meantime, it will understand that nothing bad has happened to it.
This will gradually contribute to its desensitization. By gradually exposing your dog to the fearsome object and without forcing it, your dog will get used to it and his phobic reactions will disappear or diminish. Of course, we should not think that this happens overnight: For some dogs it can take months or even years. That is why it is necessary to have patience, calm, and serenity.
My Dog Is Fearful: What Not to Do?
If you really don’t know how to deal with your dog’s fears, it is best to turn to a good dog trainer before so you learn how to do it on your own (you run the risk of making the situation worse). But there are some things that surely shouldn’t be done when a dog is afraid:
- Do not scold or hit it: Not only will the dog continue to be afraid of what scares it so badly, but also it will eventually come to fear you, too. Nothing worse for those who are already shy and afraid!
- Do not force your dog to get close to the object or person that scares it: This will further increase his anxiety and sense of submission.
- Do not reward its phobias: If the dog is afraid, perhaps in the presence of another dog, do not hug him or reward him with food, because this would strengthen its phobic and you would show it that it is good to be afraid.
If in doubt, consult a professional who will give you good assistance and answer all your questions.
You may be interested in reading another article related to the behavior of our friends such as:
- Dangerous Dogs
- My Dog Growls
- My Dog Doesn’t Want to Drink Water
- Why Do Dogs Sniff Each Other’s Tails?