Why Coddling Your Dog is Stressing Him Out

coddling is stressing your dog out, dog fear, dog anxiety

My dogs are spoiled!

I will admit it and I am not ashamed of it.

My dogs have dozens upon dozens of toys in their toy box.

I have numerous crates throughout my house because they like sleeping in crates.

I have more leashes than you can shake a stick at (I admit to a tiny addiction here).

And the training toys my dogs enjoy overflow containers in my house and in my van.

As a matter of fact, my friends LOVE when I come for training because they know I have just about anything they or their dogs could need!

My dogs also have memory foam dog beds.

And, my dog "Fury" is allowed to sleep on my bed. When my family watches her, she is allowed in their bed, even though they don’t allow their own dogs upstairs.

I reward good behavior ALL THE TIME! I use dog biscuits, cheese, elk antlers, pigs ears, rawhides and other yummy treats.

But, I Don’t Coddle Them!

What is the difference?

I mean, some reading the above description would assume that I coddle my dogs.

Heck, I even call them my kids or my “furry” kids (which I know drives some dog trainers crazy ha ha ha).

Spoiling and Coddling are NOT Synonymous

You see, in my opinion spoiling and coddling are not synonymous.

Spoil means to treat with excessive kindness, consideration or generosity.

Coddle means to treat in an indulgent or overprotective way.

Okay, okay...I will acquiesce that some of you think they are synonymous, or the same.coddling is stressing your dog out, dog fear, dog anxiety

The Difference

But, to me, the difference is that I have expectations of my dogs.

My dogs have to meet a certain level of puppy obedience training in order to have access to the things that I mentioned above.

And, I expect my dogs to be confident and deal with the things they don’t like in their environment.

In essence, I am a parental figure with strict rules and regulations, and if you adhere to my rules and regulations, you have access to all that is mine and all that you deserve.

If, however, you do not adhere to my rules and regulations, you don’t have access to those things that you want.

This is very much like a regular child/parent relationship.

You may give your kids a lot of “things” like phones, or an X-Box, but when they make mistakes, a good parent takes those things away.

What Does It Mean To Coddle Your Dog?

Coddling, in my opinion, means that you are more permissive.

Permissive means to allow excessive freedom of behavior. To be indulgent and lax.

I find that people who coddle either their dogs or their children have very few rules. And, even when rules are broken, there is no punishment or follow through for said broken rules.

The dog or child gets everything for nothing.

It is bad enough to treat your child this way!

And, I believe this kind of treatment is why we live in a world where children expect the world to be given to them with no work or effort.

This is also why so many children are so poorly behaved in public.

They are used to throwing a fit and getting their way.

Why Does This Create Stress for Your Dog?

I mean, I like someone else to cook for me and do my laundry on occasion, but I don't want to not be allowed to take care of myself!

Imagine if you weren't allowed to drive your car anymore because I offered to take you wherever you want to go. Not fun, right?

As trite as it sounds, dogs want an authority figure.

No, dogs actually NEED a good parent or authority figure.

coddling is stressing your dog out, dog fear, dog anxietyYour 5 year old may not decide to take your car keys and go for a joy ride, or to hit a salesman in the back of the head with a wrench because he might be a threat.

But, your dog will begin to assume the parental, or dominant, role if you aren’t "man enough" to do it yourself.

This is why “alpha theory” has been so blown out of proportion.

No, your dog doesn’t need an “alpha”; he is not planning to take over the world if you feed him first or if he scoots out the door before you.

But, dogs like and need structure.

And, if you don’t provide it, they will reluctantly take the role.

Yes, I am sure some of them want a shot at the top rule-maker.

But, most dogs don’t want the stress.

Being an Adult

Being an adult is stressful.

You have bills, jobs, family, and life just gets overwhelming.

I remember being a kid and being so excited about having the opportunity to be an adult and not have to listen to anyone.

Now that I am an adult, I would give anything to go back.

Being an adult and having all these responsibilities is stressful, at best.

I Think Dogs Feel the Same

They may feel like they want to be in charge of who comes in the house and what people can or can’t do in the home.

Your dog doesn't want to be an adult!

But, the truth is that these responsibilities are stressful.

Dogs with no rules, dog obedience, or regulations often feel as if they have to resort to aggression.

And, for the most part and for the large percentage of dogs, being pushed to aggression creates some panic.

Have You Ever Had a Panic Attack?

I have, unfortunately.

You literally feel like your heart will beat out of your chest.

In some cases, it feels like you are dying.

Nothing you do makes it better.

And, even if you know you are being unrealistic, you can’t get your mind and body to cooperate.

This is why so many dogs bite and then release and run away.

He doesn’t want to have to bite, but his panic makes him feel like it is the only way to control the situation.

You Are Reinforcing His Panic

And, the worst thing that you can do when a dog is having a panic attack or is fearful, is to pick him up, pet him, or coo to him.

In a sense you are reinforcing his fear.coddling is stressing your dog out, dog fear, dog anxiety

And, reinforcing his fear is the last thing that you want to do!

You want a confident dog!

But saying things like “It’s okay, it’s okay” when he is scared makes his unrealistic fears worse.

He is not a child that you can have a rational discussion with, so he sees your words and behavior as approval of his behavior.

They have studies with dogs like this and just saying those words without any trigger can make the dog panic.

Because, after all, you are adding a cue to his fear. Why is it so hard to believe that you wouldn’t have control over his emotions and feelings in a negative way, just like you can in a positive way?

Break Your Habits

Give your dog rules!

It doesn't have to be "BOOT CAMP", but he should have some basic rules and regulations and commands that are a daily occurrence.

Don’t allow him to be in charge or your home and who comes and goes.

Don’t allow him to be spoiled without good behavior! When he is good and he listens to your obedience commands, you can spoil him all you want.

Don’t coo to him or reward him when he is scared!

Ignore his unrealistic fears; calmly and quietly show him that his fears are not realistic.

I have gotten into the habit of laughing and talking to my dog normally when he shows a fear.

I want him to see that I am calm and confident and acting normally.

Instead of “it’s okay”, I laugh and say “You’re silly!  Let’s go check that out”, and let him figure out his world in his own time.

I won’t always be there when he is scared. I want to give him the confidence and the tools he needs to deal with life!

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  1. Bonnie Graser says:

    I have two 6 pound Yorkies, one has a breathing problem…sounds like he can’t swallow or catch his breath…sort of snorts…sometimes has a problem when we’re out walking so I pick him up and rub his chest til he can breath normally again (I was told it’s some valve that doesn’t work quite right) …should I not pick him up to sooth him, just leave him til he can breath properly again? Continue walking but maybe slower???


    Minette Reply:

    My guess is that it is just a reverse sneeze, which is common in dogs and can be allergy related


  2. Barbara says:

    Excellent article. Unfortunately I am a permissive dog parent. I vow to start making small changes at first until I have well behaved dogs – an 85 lb Briard and a 4 lb Yorkie. Thank you for all your good advice.


  3. Patricia Knight says:

    One of my four year old collies have taken a dislike to my granddaughter’s friend ( age12) ) and also three other young children who have been brought into our house. He barks at them and goes towards them and frightens them although he has never attempted to bite.
    We put him on a lead and scolded him and also tried to get the children to give him treats but he seems very defensive.
    We now put him in another room. We really need to cure him of this fear or whatever it is. Would appreciate advice.


    Minette Reply:

    I would recommend our aggression course or ert class. you can email customer service at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com for more information


  4. Bonnie Graser says:

    To Minette (reply).. No this is not a reverse sneeze…this is something Yorkies seem to have in common in many…and it lasts several minutes sometimes! Not an allergy…collar seems to aggravate/make it worse so always use a harness that doesn’t hit up very far onto the neck/throat area!


  5. Dana DiNunzio says:

    I truly appreciate this kind of advice, mahalo. I’ve been in the habit of saying, “It’s okay”. Now I will practice calling my dog “silly”. When I’m aware that she’s barking in a frightened way at something visible to me, I have taken her to it so that she can check it out for herself. This is common when a dog sees something which is not usually there, or out of place. I have a problem when she’s barking at something totally out of my scope. Certainly she hears what I do not, but why should distant sounds be upsetting? Aloha, Dana


    Minette Reply:

    Dogs have better hearing.

    I also expect my dog to be quiet when I tell them too, this also allows them to stop “protecting me” and allows me to be in charge of what is frightening.


  6. Reita Ash says:

    I have the most perfect furry baby in the entire world, but she does have a fear of fireworks that puts her into a frenzy and she will run wildly around and has to be sedated. Thunder is not quite as bad but also frightens her. What can I do for her? I have been holding her close and talking quietly to her and turning up the TV or Stereo. She has never made a move to bite or growl but she shakes uncontrollably. It breaks my heart to see her like that. She is a shelter dog but was only a few months old when I got her and she is now 10. Do you consider holding her close when she is so frightened to be coddling? I have in the past always told her it is ok but I wont do that any more. She is quite the social butterfly and fears no one on 2 or 4 legs. She loves showing off and doing tricks and dancing for everyone. I don’t understand the level of her sudden noise fear. I detest fireworks also but I am old and cranky. Maggie has had this fear since I brought her home from the shelter. Thanks for your advice and comments. I love reading them and have learned a lot about training from them.


  7. Judy Mandolf says:

    I have owned 5 Yorkies in succession and can tell you exactly the problem. Endemic in Yorkies is a collapsed trachea, a sad condition where the trachea, normally tube-shaped, becomes flat like a noodle and makes breathing difficult. This usually happens when the dog is excited. Unfortunately there is no cure but you can alleviate the problem by turning him on his back and gently massaging his throat, perhaps accompanied by speaking in a soft, soothing sound until he calms down. Good luck!


  8. Bonnie Fuller says:

    My “Schnoodle”(that I often refer to as Noodle Schnoodle ) yawns a lot. Some one told me thats a sign of stress. What do you think?


    Minette Reply:

    It can be. I used to have a service dog that would yawn loudly when he was bored. It all depends on the circumstances. If he is at the vet, yes probably stress, if he is at your feet at night… probably not


  9. Jen says:

    You might a thunder jacket which is made for dogs with this fear. They seem to work well for friends’ dogs. Incidentally, these jackets are also made for people for a variety of reasons.


  10. Janet M Salyerds says:

    I agree with you, both my Yorkies had this problem, God love them. My one had a partially collapsed ephogist which many little dogs get with their in their teens, especially. I too, would pick up my little, coddle them and just let them know that mommy understands their having a little problem, and I truly believe when I would set them down, they had pep in their strut by me taking a few minutes for them.


  11. Nancy Newell says:

    My 2 dogs have started barking at my son when he walks in the house if he’s been gone or my bedroom. It is very annoying as they know it is him. I think they want his attention. He’s around him a good deal and they love his attention. What can I do to stop this behavior?


  12. Barbara R says:

    You’re right, Bonnie. My daughter has a Yorkie who whenever he becomes really happy, like when we come to visit, he chokes and gargles and gags. He is so overwhelmed with gladness that he can’t control this. We just hav3 to wait calmly until i5 passes.


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