Friday, March 25, 2011


Fears can be tricky. They can come on at any time and you may never figure out what triggered them. Most dogs at one time or another develop a fear of something whether it is another dog, a person or an object. You shouldn't assume that if your dog doesn't fear something right now that it won't ever happen.


Expose your puppy or dog to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, other animals, kids, temperatures, noise levels, surfaces, etc. as much and as often as possible. This will build his overall confidence.

Recognizing a fearful dog

The most common signals a fearful dog will exhibit are:

  • tail between the legs
  • flattened ears
  • excessive panting
  • drooling
  • whimpering
  • shaking
  • cowering
  • frequent yawning
  • hiding
  • refusal to take food

Handling a fearful dog

There are many conflicting opinions about whether or not to comfort a dog in a fearful or anxious state. What should you do? Completely ignore your dog and let him deal with it by himself? Or make a big deal about it, feel sorry for him and in essence agree with his fear? Neither one of these options is very productive. Strive for something in between.

At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for you and your dog. Whatever you choose, how you feel is very important. If you feel bad and anxious, then your dog will pick up on those feelings. It's best to remain calm and relaxed.


If your dog’s fear is minor (for example he gets anxious during a storm), you can engage him with a tasty treat, a command, a toy or some play time. Choose something your dog really enjoys to increase your chances of distracting him. All dogs have different likes so get to know what your dog’s favourite things are.


Massage can help relax an anxious dog. Start slowly with light, gentle long strokes from his head to tail. Once you feel him relax, make small circular motions with your fingers over his body and face. Massaging your dog has other benefits other than relaxing him. It’s important for dogs to be comfortable with human touch, especially when it’s time to go to the vet. It’s also a good opportunity for you to check for any abnormalities or lumps. Please note that a deep tissue massage requires knowledge of a dog’s anatomy and should only be given by a professional. Keep it gentle!


Expose your dog little by little to whatever he is afraid of. If your dog is afraid of the vacuum cleaner, start by giving treats, affection or a toy beside it while it’s turned off (only when your dog is relaxed around the object). Repeat this for several days before even turning it on. Then slowly graduate to adding the sound. This could take many tries but don’t give up.

* Always lead your dog to the object he fears, never push him towards it.


Build your dog's overall confidence level with exercises like agility or doing obstacles. It’s good to take your dog downtown where there is noise of traffic, people and bicycles going by and different sights and smells. Reward your dog for being calm in new situations.


It may be time to go back to basics and practice your leadership skills. Pack animals naturally follow and trust their leader. It is important to have a bond with your dog. He has to trust that you will keep him safe and protected. Are you the leader?


Never yell or punish your dog for being afraid. You will only add to your dog’s fear.

No comments:

Post a Comment