How to Deal With Fearful Dogs?

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We have all been afraid at some point in our lives – it can be quite paralyzing and prevent us from doing anything about it. When we see another person in fear, our instinctual response is to tell them that everything will be alright and try to make the fear go away. However, when it comes to your dog, it is the wrong thing to do.

Dogs tend to relate human behavior to whatever they are doing at that particular moment. It is the basis of positive reinforcement training. For instance, if you want to teach your dog to sit, you will have to associate the behavior with a reward till he instinctively understands “If I sit down, something good happens.”

Affection from humans is a reward for dogs. If you comfort a fearful dog, you are unwittingly rewarding him for being scared. You can’t explain to your dog why she should not be scared, or make him understand that the thing he fears is not going to hurt him – they don’t have the requisite cognitive abilities to grasp such concepts. They tend to think that they are getting a reward for being afraid. Over time, a shy and timid dog can turn into a terrified, skittish animal because his owner has been rewarding him when he is in a negative energy state. Dogs do not need love when they are afraid. They need the right leadership.

Dogs exhibit allelomimetic behavior – this means that they learn by imitating. Generally, this kind of learning tends to happen only between members of the same species, but since dogs have a special relationship with humans, they also learn by imitating our behavior. That is why it is crucial for you to remain assertive and calm when your dog is afraid. If they see that you are not afraid of the passing skateboarder or the loud noise, it will make them more confident. If the pack leader is not paying any attention the source of disturbance, maybe it is not really scary.

Dogs have four basic instinctive responses to environmental stimuli – fight, flight, avoid and surrender. Most fearful dogs exhibit flight or avoidance – They actively try to ignore or run away from undesirable stimuli. We do not want it to escalate into a fight, which can sometimes be an extreme reaction to fear – the classic presentation is that of a cornered animal attacking viciously under extreme fear. As a pack owner, you need to push your dog to surrender. You need to force your dog to accept the stimulus without having strong reaction to it. The proper way to approach a fearful dog is with a calm, assertive energy, not words. You need to show them that you are in charge and everything is okay.

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