The Secret of Dealing With Fearful Dogs

If you’re dealing with a fearful dog at home, try building his confidence.

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Boost your dog’s self-esteem (and reduce his anxiety) by teaching him commands like “sit” and “roll over.” By: panli54

Is your dog timid or fearful? Fright in dogs can be caused by environmental, genetic or even medical issues. Thankfully, there are several ways to cut down your dog’s anxiety and build his confidence.

A word of caution — in dealing with fearful dogs, never compare your pet to braver, more outgoing dogs. Just because your friend’s dog is rough, tough and fearless doesn’t mean that he has the better pet. Every dog is unique, with different strengths and challenges, and letting your dog know that you love him just the way he is while helping him get over his fears can help him get more comfortable with himself.

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Dealing With Fearful Dogs

Banded Peak Veterinary Hospital in Alberta, Canada, offers a few tips to ease fearful tendencies your pet may exhibit:

  1. Don’t put your pet in situations that may intensify his fears. If he becomes nervous around other dogs, don’t take him to a park where there will be lots of canines. Find a play area for him where there are only a few other pets wandering about.
  2. Don’t push him to get over his fright. Let him explore and discover new things at his own pace. Become his “backup” companion as he investigates things that are new to him or things that may scare him. And always reward him when he approaches that great fear. Building up his ego will give him pride in coming face-to-face with things he feared while pleasing his family at the same time.
  3. Whenever your dog is on a leash, with you by his side, keep the leash short enough that your dog can explore without your having to reel him away from a scary object.
  4. Build your pet’s confidence through communication. Teaching him to obey commands such as “roll over,” “drop it” or “come” — and rewarding him when he obeys a command — will go a long way in boosting his self-esteem. Using commands like these, even when he is in a fearful situation, may distract his thoughts from what he is scared of. Reward him for his obedience. A warm smile from you may be just the reward he needs to feel proud. (Of course, treats will also be welcomed.)

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Get Your Dog a Canine Buddy

Another way to help your dog get more comfortable with himself is by getting him a friend. “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan says there are a few situations where walking with another dog may help your own dog get over his fears. If you know anyone who has friendly pets, consider asking for a playdate for the pups.

Watch this helpful video for more tips on reducing your dog’s anxiety:

Aggressive Behavior

If at any time your pet shows aggressive fearfulness, contact a veterinary behavior specialist. This specialist can provide you with advice on behavioral changes as well as any needed medications to help your dog get a grip on his fear and anxiety.

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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