6 Simple Tips to Help Fearful Dogs

6 Simple Tips to Help Fearful Dogs

A fearful dog can be stressful for everyone. For the friend who just wants to say hello, for another dog who just wants to play and for the owner who wants their dog to be able to do all those things. There is no quick fix for a dog who is often frightened or nervous but here are a few tips to get the ball rolling.

Tip 1. Stay Calm
When you predict something is going to make your dog scared (such as another dog or person), the natural reaction is to become nervous yourself. You might subconsciously become tense or reassure your dog that everything is ok.

By tensing up you are telling the dog that there is about to be an incident that is worth worrying about. If you remain calm and don’t show the dog that you are afraid of the situation, they are less likely to be afraid themselves.

If you comfort a dog while they are acting frightened or nervous, you are actually rewarding them for showing that behaviour with attention. They will then repeat that fearful behaviour in future, in order to get more of your attention.

Tip 2. Training Classes
Through training classes and strengthening the bond between you and your dog, you will increase their confidence when they are with you towards other people and dogs.

Start off slowly, just by being in the same vicinity as other people or dogs. Don’t try to get anyone to greet your dog straight away, start off just by being around others. Over time (may take many months) and regular classes you will build up to people greeting your dog.

Don’t rush! One bad experience for your dog could possibly set you back to the beginning.

Tip 3. Desensitization
If your dog is particularly frightened of loud noises, you could always get a CD that plays noises such as fireworks, cars backfiring etc., in the house. By having this on quietly to start with and over time increasing the volume, the dog will get used to the noises that used to frighten them.
Tip 4. Behaviour Modifying Pheromones

When a dog is born the mother releases a pheromone, called Dog Appeasing Pheromone (D.A.P), which calms the puppies and makes them feel safe. This pheromone also works on adult dogs and has been developed into products such as collars and diffusers for the home.

The pheromone doesn’t affect anyone other than dogs and we can’t even smell it!

Next time you’re at the vets or in a pet shop, ask if they have any D.A.P products available and have a look.

Tip 5. Seek Professional Help
Find a local trainer who can help (pictured: Cesar Milan from the dog whisperer)

Find a local trainer who can help (pictured: Cesar Milan from the dog whisperer)

Sometimes, the first 4 tips just won’t be enough. If you are still struggling with your fearful dog you may need help from a professional canine behaviourist. Although we vets can give some behavioural advice, often we may refer dogs needing more in depth help to a professional behaviourist who deals with it all the time.

There are many different canine behaviourists out there and it can get quite confusing trying to find the best one for you. So before you get in touch with any ask your vet who they recommend.

Tip 6. Don’t give up!
Getting your dog to be more confident and overcome their fears can be a long, challenging experience but by getting through it you will have a happier companion with a more fulfilled life at the end of it.

If you have any more questions please feel free to call us or book an appointment to see someone for some face to face advice.