Should A Fearful Dog Face Up To Their Fears?
There is a common belief that suggests the best way to lose your fears is to face them head on. But is the same correct for our dogs and should we be making a fearful dog confront their fears?
If your dog is scared of people for example, should you be making sure they come across a lot of people everyday in the hope they will get used to them or learn how to be brave? How about a dog afraid of fireworks, should you take them to a display every year to get them use to intense noises?
How we tackle the problem of dog fears is essential, as we risk compounding the fears and making our dogs rather more fearful if we take the wrong approach.
A Productive Approach to Helping a Fearful Dog
All evidence shows that encouraging or forcing a dog to deal with their fears is not a productive one, neither is it safe. Some dogs coming eyeball to eyeball with a scary experience will lash out with fear aggression. Imagine the effects if that was a kid they were afraid of. Infact repeated exposure to a fear is likelier to increase the anxiety each time they experience it.
Naturally, we can not protect our dogs from everything they are worried about. We are not able to stop thunderstorms; or folks coming to the house or having to leave our dogs home alone now and then. Nor are we able to ignore the problem because that won’t make it go either, so what can we do?
The Best Way to Help When Your Dog is Fearful
When your dog is showing fear, the way you react is very important as they can often be looking to see what you do in the situation. If you show anxiety, it’ll confirm they’re right to feel like this. So it is very important that you stay calm and show your dog that this is nothing to be anxious about.
Avoid comforting your dog excessively or making an enormous fuss of them when they show fear as this isn’t beneficial for your dog. Either your dog could see this as a reward for their fearful behaviour and it’ll encourage them to continue to behave in this manner; or it’ll confirm that they are right to be fearful.
Now that does not imply if your dog wants to curl up with you during a thunderstorm that you should not let them, just that you should stay calm, not make a big fuss of them and act like there is little for them to be afraid of.
How to Help Your Dog Get Over Their Fears
There are 3 ways in which you can help in cutting dog fears. The 1st is to utilise desensitisation training which involves exposing your dog to their fear at an intensity they can deal with and in tiny incremental steps gradually increase their exposure, using treats and praise to help the technique.
The second is for you to discover how to show your dog that you are the pack leader as this is believed to be beneficial for anxious dogs, particularly for those with separation anxiety. The 3rd is to ask your vet about the use of medication for really extreme cases, though you’ll still have to use training alongside it.
Author Venice Marriott is a writer, dog owner and runs a website which provides help and information for dog owners dealing with dog anxiety. Get more information about helping a fearful dog face fears when you visit the site.