Why Fear Is the Most Terrifying and Dangerous Doggy Behavior

Thank You Pet Product Marketing UK for the Photo


Fear is the most difficult behavior to help a dog with when working on behavior modification.

I would almost choose aggression over fear related behaviors.

And actually fear often leads to aggression.

Dogs have a very distinct fight or flight instinct that keeps them alive, so when a dog gets scared and he can’t get away his next reaction is often aggression.  Sometimes severe debilitating aggression.

You See

Regular aggression triggers can be more easily controlled, territorial behavior, dog aggression, even human aggression when there is no fear component.

Fear Makes Behavior Unreliable

Fear makes regular behavior unreliable, because you can have a seemingly normal dog aggress in a very short time.

And people think that they can overcome a dog’s fears simply by exposure.

Whereas sometimes this is true, most of the time it is more complicated than that, and people frequently misread fear behavior in dogs until it is too late and a bite has occurred.

Usually in order to find success, owners must employ desensitization tactics for more on desensitization click here 

Human Statistics

When it comes to humans 77% of people are bitten by dogs that they know (friend or family) and 50% of bites occur on the dog owner’s property click here for more information.

And, although those are some pretty impressive and disturbing statistics it is hard to say exactly what has caused the bites.

Dog Bites Can Be Complicated

Dog bites can be complicated generally because people have difficulty reading dog behavior, dogs are left unattended, and because of both of those people push dogs past their bite threshold.

So What Can You Do?

Recognize fear

We need to learn to recognize fear in a dog’s behavior in order to make any kind of change!

Thanks Lili Chin for the photo

Thanks Lili Chin for the photo

  • Dilated pupils
  • Whale eye (seeing the whites around your dog’s iris which is the color of your dog’s eye)
  • Staring
  • Stiffening or freezing in one position (may just be for a fraction of a second)
  • Yawning
  • Panting
  • Licking lips
  • Ducking head or trying to take head away
  • Trying to get away
  • Pouncing or jumping
  • Flinching
  • Shaking
  • Darting back and forth on leash
  • Hiding
  • Ears flat
  • Tail tucked
  • Bristling or hackling
  • Pulling on the leash (forward or backward)
  • Growling
  • Snarling
  • Barking
  • Whining or screaming
  • Lunging to bite

Usually you will see a variety of these signs in one dog, usually starting mildly with dilated pupils, staring, stiffening, trying to retreat or get away and then escalating to more aggression like barking, hackling, growling and lunging if the threat or trigger doesn’t go away.

The Key

The key to fear is not to stress your dog through all of these signs or into aggression at all.

Recognize his fear and GET HIM OUT of that situation!

Even if at the slightest sign, let’s say staring and stiffening, you remove him and he doesn’t move any further into discomfort what have you lost?  Nothing!

But if you push him further, he learns to control his environment with aggression and fear.  He learns that by growling, lunging, or snarling he can keep people or dogs at bay, which heightens his aggression the next time he is in a similar situation.

Let’s Talk About It

Thanks Tumblr for the Photo

Thanks Tumblr for the Photo

I have recently heard several people say things like “My dog was attacked 3 different times in the dog park, and now he is dog aggressive”

Or “My dog is scared of people, so we put a muzzle on him and take him to the park and usually he hides behind my legs, but recently he is getting really aggressive”

Now put yourself in these dog’s paws…

How would you like to get beat up and mugged each time you went to the local grocery store?  After the first time you would probably be scared of being in that situation again, right?

After the 2nd time as a human, I bet you would decide to never go back to that store or that side of town and if forced and mugged a third time you would probably arm yourself and be aggressive too, wouldn’t you?

I feel sad for this dog, who was forced to interact with dogs (and he was probably showing signs of fear) and so the dogs around him took advantage of him over and over again; until he finally became aggressive and learned that was the only way he could keep himself safe…

What About That Second Dog

What is your worst fear?

  • Buried alive?
  • Falling?
  • Being covered in spiders or snakes?

Now let’s say I bury you alive for a few hours, make you bungee jump, or cover you in spiders in a container…

Do you think that would magically cure you?spider

I personally have a fear of heights and I am not fond of spiders and I can tell you that forcing me off a building or into a box with spider is only going to heighten my fear!

And, the next time I see you or the person or therapist who is forcing me to do these things (called flooding) coming, I am likely to get aggressive.  Chances are if I pull a knife or a gun and threaten to kill my therapist if he/she tries to do that again, will keep me from being put into that situation again.

You See Aggression Usually Works

Unfortunately, and fortunately aggression usually works.

Dogs learn, because we force them into uncomfortable situations, that aggression keeps their triggers or fears (other dogs and people) at bay.

And, so aggression can become a defense mechanism, because after all we are forcing them into fight or flight; especially when they are hiding or trying to get away and we are still forcing them to deal with something that is scaring them.

How To Help a Fearful or Even Fear Aggressive Dog

Recognize his triggers and KEEP THEM AWAY!

If he is afraid of people, dogs, kids etc. keep them away from him; at least until you can teach him appropriate coping mechanisms.  This also builds his trust in you.  If you keep forcing him, he has no trust that you will keep him safe.

Don’t expect him to JUST GET OVER IT; chances are he can’t.  And, chances are you are going to have to spend his lifetime maintaining control and managing his fears.

Give him the gift of OBEDIENCE for more on that click this link!  Dogs are not great multitaskers, which means he can’t give you eye contact and focus for more on that click here, while he is staring at other dogs or people.

He can’t give you push-ups, or execute other intricate commands while paying attention to his triggers!  If he has a good background in obedience and enjoys performing his commands for you, then he will learn to ignore the things that once scared him because he trusts you (to keep his triggers at a distance; i.e. don’t let people pet him if he is afraid of people) while he obeys your every command.

Once his obedience is impeccable and he is listening 95% of the time slowly add distractions (that aren’t triggers for him and let him work through having distractions about).

Now To Desensitize Those Triggers

Teach Your Dog to Stare at YOU when you are out to help with Fears

Teach Your Dog to Stare at YOU when you are out to help with Fears

In order to desensitize successfully, you need to work at his pace.

Put aside any grandiose ideas that he will learn to “like” his trigger.

People want to think that their dog that is fearful of people will one day turn into a Golden Retriever who likes every person.

Or they want their dog aggressive dog to go to the dog park.

Understand that you may be in for a life of maintenance and controlling your dog and his environment.  Chances are his fears will become more manageable but they will always be there, and he needs to trust you that you won’t put him into an uncomfortable or terrifying situation.

Once his obedience is nearly perfect he may move through doing obedience while his trigger is around fairly quickly.

First work at a great distance from his trigger so that he is showing no signs of stress or fear.  If his pupils dilate or he stiffens or gets at all aggressive you are TOO CLOSE, move back.

As he is successful with is eye contact and focus (this command is essential), you may begin moving closer.

Be sure to always monitory his signs of stress and keep him safe.

You may need to leave certain situations if your dog becomes stressed.

Don’t think you can force him through faster, let him work at his pace so he builds confidence as his trust in you is growing.

And, always remember that even if you haven’t seen stress, fear or aggression in a long time, doesn’t mean that those feelings are gone.

It means that you have learned how to maintain him, and give him confidence in certain situations but don’t gamble by pushing him too far; or he is likely to revert back and bite.

Fear is more about maintenance than it is about totally getting over something.

After all, I am always going to hate spiders!

Do You Want To Help Your Dog Overcome His Fears?

Check out our 5 Step Formula that helps FINALLY Fixing Your Dog’s Fears, Anxieties & Poor Self Confidence.

Click here to learn this ‘Becoming Fear Free’ training process

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  1. ane says:

    Hi Minette,

    I have a GSD approaching 2 yrs now, who grew up on a farm around horses. I tried always to keep the exposures positive and controlled, however he was frightened when still very young and has retained that fear for the horses. He happily comes on rides with us, etc, only showing signs of fear when they approach too close to him. As a result I have never allowed him into the paddock were he can be easily surrounded or chased, and instead ask him to wait at the gate or fence while I fetch a horse, which he happily does. He then has a place at the stables and arena that I have taught him to stay at, so for the most part as long as I keep the horses away from him he is happy. However, he has occasionally chased them, he will growl and he has snapped at them when they have come too close. Have I done the right thing in asking him to wait outside the paddock and arena? He always seems quite happy and content there, but won’t move if horses approach him. Can I teach him to move away from them instead of growling? The horses don’t care how much he growls, they do not move away.



    Minette Reply:

    Horses don’t really understand growling.

    Yes, you can teach him to move if you use a leash on the dog and a horse that you trust and control them both, teach him to vacate the area when a horse comes near.

    Horses kill dogs every year, they aren’t an animal that can really be herded since they kick. It is important for him to respect and move away and not chase


  2. I have two King Charles Spaniels, a small one and a bigger one.
    Every time I take them for a walk the smaller one just cries and continually wants me to pick her up and carry her.
    Is this a sign of fear of the big world and how can I rid her of this habit?


    Minette Reply:

    My guess is it is a sign of laziness… after all who wouldn’t want to be carried.

    Put her down and refuse to pick her up. If you have to walk her solo for a while do so, but don’t give into picking her up. Remind yourself what you would have to do if you owned a great dane 😉


    John Reply:

    Thank you for your response, but I don’t pick her up. But is it normal for a dog to whimper and cry and want to be picked up everytime you take them for a walk?
    I just wonder if she doesn’t want to go out and is happy to stay around her home?


    Minette Reply:

    In order to have a normal dog that you can take places (and lets face it all dogs have to go somewhere occasionally) you must take her out and let her figure out her environment, or I am afraid you will end up with a very fearful and possibly aggressive dog.

  3. Sherry says:

    Love the facts that will help my with my dogs fears of small children. Now know how to handle it. Thanks again


  4. Neita says:


    I have a dog that has fear aggression! Hunter is a rescue dog had been abused at some point and is afraid of strangers. his hackles go up and he barks, he has never growled! he cowers when new people enter the house or someone he doesn’t see to often! I have instructed people not to give eye contact and just ignore him and he always comes around after a short time!
    I do however wish that the aggression was easier and he could some what get past it! I don’t know his past I got him at not quite a year old and have had him for 4 years now! he is a egar learner and basic obedience is a snap for him he loves playing ball and retrieving is a favorite, sit, stay, down, etc he is amazing at! Other dogs will dominate him very easily and do if they are around! however he has an acre to himself and that is is territory he has not desire to go off the property we can leave the gates open and he never tries to get out! I have a horse and they are great buddies! I have never offered to let him go out when I ride. mainly cause of other dogs in the area that would be a problem!
    so my question here is the fear aggression! any ideas on how to get him past the fear when new people come calling???
    especially small children I not trust him around kids AT ALL
    I forgot to mention I am retired and it is Just me and My husband at home!


    Minette Reply:

    Keep him on a leash.

    And, if you do not know his history you do not know he was abused. So many people use this as an excuse not to push a dog simply because the behavior they show is timid.

    So few dogs are truly abused and most of them handle it fine.

    There are however many dogs born with fear issues or have experienced something frightening when they were young.

    I have had fearful dogs and not a one was abused by anyone… so I guess I am trying to say rationalizing and using that as an excuse only puts your dog behind.

    Use a leash, read the article and don’t force him into a situation where he is uncomfortable


  5. sniffsquad says:

    I’ve used LAT (“Look At That!”) game with success for counter-conditioning triggers in fearful/fear-aggressive dogs. It originates from Leslie McDevitt’s book “Control Unleashed”. I found it to be helpful because the dog still can glance at the ‘monster’ and then return to maintaining eye contact with me or the handler. Same idea if there’s a spider in the room – I want to know where the heck that creepy crawly thing is headed. With the dogs though – since I’m rewarding for the look back, I’m also counter-conditioning the trigger… and eventually we ease the tension/nervousness enough to close the distance. Nice post. Fear is so misunderstood by most people.


    Minette Reply:

    I’m not a big believer in that particular game LAT. I understand it to a degree, but I think it almost takes a professional to do it well.

    The average person won’t reward in time and will allow a look to become a stare which becomes an aggressive outburst.

    I also used to use “touch” and having my dog “touch” my hand that could be rested on things he was nervous about. He trusted “touch” and i never used it for people… but it was a good way to teach him to relax. Also I think most people have a hard time reading dogs and this could be dangerous or make the problem worse for the average person.


    sniffsquad Reply:

    Agreed. Timing is everything. Keeping the dog under threshold is absolutely essential to the ‘game’. But once demonstrated properly, it’s a technique that most owners could do on their own. I love the fact it’s based on a reward system. IF the dog stays under threshold (i.e. at a safe distance from trigger), and rewards are timed well – there’s very little risk.

    I hope that any owner with a dog displaying fear or aggression will consult with a qualified trainer before trying ANY technique to rehab the behavior. There’s too much at risk!!


  6. Teigan says:

    Hello Minette, great article! That was very informative and helpful. I have a dog that is anxious around strangers. She stands exactly like the third dog in the second set of images and barks like crazy. We recently took her to a vet who is also an animal behaviourist who labeled her as having “fear aggression” (she’s never bitten anyone though) and a mental disorder and prescribed her with Prozac. The thing that makes working with Eden difficult though, is that I am convinced she does not bark out of fear, at least not out of fear for herself. When we have guests in the house, she barks at them and on very very rare occasions, growls. She doesn’t try and get away from them though; she’s the most calm if she can keep an eye on them. If anyone in my family leaves the room with the guest, Eden goes off the wall (she’s on leash though so she can’t bite them even if she wanted to). I think having guests over is stressful for her but I am wondering if her fear and barking is actually out of fee for our safety. On walks she’s good around strangers, unless I’m nervous or they stop their car and talk to me (she’s fine if they are walking by). If anyone in my family is wrestling or fighting, she follows them an gives a couple concerned barks. I’ve also noticed that whenever strangers are near either on walks or at home, she will put herself between me and the stranger. What can I do so she’s is more manageable when we have guests over? Thanks.


    Minette Reply:

    More obedience. Let her know you can take care of yourself and she doesn’t have to. I don’t allow my dogs to bark at people unless I ask them to (on command and in uncomfortable situations) but they don’t consider they are barking at people, they are convinced they are barking because I tell them to.

    They know I can take care of myself.

    If in dire need I have no problem knowing they would defend me.

    But their obedience is so good, they go to their beds when told, they are quiet when told, and they are constantly given commands and a job to do so that I am in charge.


  7. Bekka's Mom says:

    Hi — I love your articles, and thank you very much for them. We have an odd situation with our dog, and nothing we have tried so far has worked to help her. During rain (or snow… or leaves falling….) she barks and charges at the windows. She’ll run all over the house, whining and barking for all she’s worth. Her typical fear response is to hide in the bedroom, so we don’t think she is afraid; she seems to be trying to protect us from whatever is falling from the sky.
    We’ve tried crating her, tried the Anxiety Wrap, comforting, ignoring, leashing….. and sadly sometimes we just give her medication because she seems so far gone that she will injure herself or have a heart attack. Any ideas? Or maybe this actually IS a fear response that we are mis-reading? We live in a rural area, and professional help for this kind of thing isn’t readily available. Thanks.


    Minette Reply:

    Everything is available if you drive 😉 I live in the country too but I am willing to drive for hours for a veterinary college or even spend the night somewhere if I need to. Dogs are an investment.

    However, I would close the windows and keep her on a leash. Use medication if you need to; to help her relax, this will help with your training.

    Teach her to go to her bed and lay down and chew something special (all while she is on a leash). Turn up the music and let that distract her.

    As she becomes better begin opening the windows and turning down the music, but work at her pace.


  8. Nancy Lopez says:

    My dog has an extreme fear of her collar. She runs and hides when I get it out. My son had taken her one day and she was running away from him so he put a shock collar on her. I was furious with him because she has had a fear of her regular collar since that day. What can I do. I can’t even take her for walks. She shakes, pants and hides whenever she sees it. Will she ever be able to get over the fear?


    Minette Reply:

    You may just have to use it for short times every day, with lots of treats and reward. If she likes car rides put her in the car with the collar, if she likes walks walk her with the collar. It may take her a LOOOONG time to get used to it

    This is prime example of why I hate shock collars!


    Liza Besso Reply:

    Thanks for the support in these blogs. I have a rescue cattle dog that is fear aggressive. Frustrating cause I can see the human failure in him. Living in a urban area people feel that he’s a bad do so you kill it. Then they go have a kale vegan shake. I suppose this alleviates guilt?

    Anyhow, yes with rock solid obedience and eye contact along with positive reinforcement has made him manageable. I’ll also add better behaved than most urban city dwellers children.

    Also on the above situation have they tried a harness and/or halti collar? Which made a huge difference in getting eye contact from my blueheeler


    Minette Reply:

    I do use Gentle Leaders for aggressive dogs, but I feel they are a tool that should be used only for short periods of time.

    I also hate to FORCE behavior because then I think it is resented, but you are right a gentle leader can keep your dog from focusing on things you don’t want

    Liza Besso Reply:

    The down side to this heeler is he will nip, he’s never gone for a full mouth bit but…… In the city a dog that bites at all is dead dog. I’ve had no choice but to use negative enforcement here and there to make sure I have him distracted. I don’t have the space to never have a situation happen that might get a reaction.

    My dog is a fear bitter. The dog in the above comment there are harnesses instead of a collar.


    Minette Reply:

    I recommend a basket muzzle to keep you both safe and to keep you from resorting to punishment read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/love/

  9. rosemary says:

    My dog gets scared if I sneeze or yawn. I don’t know why or how to help her. I try not to sneeze when she is around, but sometimes I can’t help it.



    Minette Reply:

    The best thing to do is desensitize her, pretend to sneeze and throw her a liver treat or yawn and throw a treat… she’ll learn to not only get over it but look forward it it… then you can stop haha


    Bill D. Reply:

    I have a similar strange problem with my 4 yr. old Lab mix. She is terrified of her own gas passing. When she was younger it was not too much of a problem, because she rarely did it. Now though it happens more frequently. She looks like she has been beaten or done something bad and she hangs her head and retreats to the bedroom. I usually don’t even hear it, but when I do I try to give her a treat, but she wants nothing to do with it, rare for this chow hound. I am at a loss as to how to get her to not fear. Any suggestions? Thank you.


    Minette Reply:

    I would guess she associates going to the bathroom in the house as a bad thing… this is usually the kind of dog I see with this problem… one that got into trouble as a puppy for having accidents.

    I would look more to avoiding the problem with a change of dog food or check with your vet about possibly adding some yogurt.

  10. Janette says:

    Hi Minette,
    I have a 1yr old Maltese, and my biggest problem with him is the barking at cars and other dogs


  11. ann fuller says:

    Thanks Minette!

    As I read the restof the web page I saw your article and it was really helpful!

    I will work on obedience with Bart and eye contact. Probably won’t take him to vet when I have to take the cat, since I can’t focus on him.



  12. Liza Besso says:

    I love your blogs negative reinforcement isn’t punishment.
    All a basket muzzle did was re enforce his biting behavior and encourage city people to disrespect his space. They see it and then want you to euthanize your dog this means you have a vicious dog.

    I’ve worked with a behavior mod specialist that works with the issues we face with having dogs in the city.

    Here in the city dogs have to be brain dead no resentments towards any behavior towards them. You can kick one across the room and it wont bite. If your dog bites fails a behavior test the authorities will euthanize it.

    I cannot control strangers around me. They don’t care they have strange beliefs. There some places I don’t take my dog to.

    True story a soccer mom with her unruly kids and a off leash out of control bichon frise. It was other wise a quiet day in the park. I asked she get her dog cause my dog who was leashed isn’t always dog friendly. She gave me a dirty look which dogs pick on by the way – and started with I have no right to have a dog like that… Nonetheless he didn’t lose it. I have taught him to wave.

    Which he perfectly sat and waved at them… We not really waving instead of biting were giving them the finger.

    She got her dog and dropped her attitude which would have been even worse if he’d been wearing his basket muzzle.

    I think it’s sad how easily people don’t understand and then just behind close doors want to destroy an animal as being bad.


    Minette Reply:

    I’ve never had this problem, if my dogs look like Hannibal Lector they avoid at all cost. and it gives my dogs other things to think about while not being able to inflict pain and a bite, which keeps them alive.


  13. Nancy Feldman says:

    My husband and I have had a dog (usually an Australian Shepherd) for all the 55 years we’ve been married. we’ve loved them all, but have often found that the Aussies in particular are afraid of thunder. They can tell before we can that a thunderstorm is coming and want to be as close as possible to us until it has passed (preferably in a lap, but we don’t allow that!). No amount of verbal reassurance or caressing seems to comfort them. How can we desensitize them to thunder? They show all the signs of terror–panting, trembling, trying to get our attention and hiding if they are outdoors.


    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/nix-dealt-fourth-july-thunderstorms/


  14. Katrina says:

    I have a question about thunder / lighting, loud noises things you can’t control I have tried the thunder shirt, a harness w/ a heart beat, & an all natural calming solution, the t.shirt & her creat work well at home my concern is walks & being out when it starts storming or she hears a jet or strange noise. She is a 22mth old german Shepard I have had her sense she was 8 weeks. I hate it when she is scared & I can’t help her.


    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/nix-dealt-fourth-july-thunderstorms/


  15. Dennis Mitchell says:

    I have a Belgian Malinois that has been training for schutzhund (protection dog). He has recently become gun shy. I have taken him and my rottie out running in the desert and have fired guns around them with no problem at all. During a recent training a starters pistol was fired and he went stupid. The trainer and I think this was from some kind of trauma. Firecrackers being thrown at him maybe? We have been working with desensitizing him with gun fire from far off and positive reinforcement. He is slowly getting used to it again. Any ideas?


    Minette Reply:

    I say this in the most loving way; because I have 2 malinois and have had countless others over the year. You are just talking about a Malinois… they aren’t always the most fearless anymore.

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/preparing-gun-dog-gunfire/


  16. Silvia says:

    I have a very nervous 1 year old Leonberger and at 150lbs that’s a dangerous dog. I’ve been working with him but I don’t know that I will ever trust him (he over powers me when he lunges and it’s very scary). His trigger is difficult to identify. One minute he’s fine around everyone then all of a sudden some one enters the environment and he goes into watch dog mode. Not agressive…definitely fear. I don’t get it and don’t know how to get him past it.


    Minette Reply:

    I wouldn’t take him out unless he wore a basket muzzle so I could ensure he couldn’t bite.

    You also need to see a veterinary behaviorist… this is dangerous and you need someone who can witness the behavior. http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/recommend-veterinary-behaviorist-dog-trainer/


  17. Brittany H says:

    Hi there, I’m not sure if my boxer/beagle (male) does this out of fear but no matter what breed of dog he will start barking aggressively and gets pretty out of control when this happens. Its whenever he sees any other dog while we are out for a walk. I can’t take him to a dog park and on a few occasions he got so out of control that he bit me. He’s fine with people, children, and cats, but dogs of any breed or size is like his arch enemy! I’ve tried bark collars, muzzles, and water spray bottles, but none work. I’m terrified he may one day attack another dog … its odd though because, if we bring him into a house where the people have a dog as a pet, he will be calm and somewhat friendly to their dog. Does he no that that’s the dogs territory and not to act aggressively? I don’t no what to make of it.
    please give me some information if you can, I would really appreciate it!
    thank you.


    Minette Reply:

    Only someone who can see the behavior can know. There are so many variables.

    I would ask or contact a veterinary behaviorist so they can witness the behavior and put you both on a behavior modification program.


  18. carolyn says:

    I also have a rescue dog who has only gotten along with two dogs since I have owned him. (about 4 years) A female German Shepherd and a tiny Yorkie who immediately put Rusty in his place. Rusty has been jumped by other dogs many times on walks that we would take because some people allow their dogs to run loose. So now he hates most other dogs that he does not know. There is NO WAY he could be taken to a dog park! He is extremely aggressive on the outside of the fence much less in with other dogs.

    I have gone as far as to get a powerful stun gun and warn people who can’t control their dogs that they are in danger of getting zapped if they get to close! There are idiots who actually want the dogs to meet! Rusty loves people and the people around here love him and they are smart enough to keep their dogs away.


  19. pat says:

    I now own a two and a half year old female Border Collie. Loaded with most of the fear you talk of here. She is fraid of most sounds and movement of people. She has her own crate where she stays. When I am around I leave the door open for her to go where she choses. I only praise when ever she moves forward showing relaxed behavior. I will not recognize her in any form should she show fear. We are doing better but this is a very slow process.
    So happy for this article on fear for I have never dealt with this before in my dogs. It shows that I’m going in the right direction with her. Will never give up on her and hope to do some formal training or therapy work in the future.


    Minette Reply:

    I would talk to your vet about meds, medication AND behavior modification work well together!


  20. Mary says:

    Great article, Love how you educate about dog body language. When dealing with a fearful dog it is paramount to listen to what your dog is telling you with their non verbal language. Love how you discuss flooding and WHY it won’t work.

    Question, why not introduce counter conditioning? I have a fearful pup, PM rescue who was afraid of EVERYTHING including my husband. It is possible to help a dog feel GOOD about something they fear (trigger) we did it with a multitude of fears using desensitization and counter conditioning protocols. Perhaps it’s in another article?

    Also, when talking about fearful dogs, we need to mention that some dogs need medical intervention. Some dogs are so fraught with anxiety and fear that they cannot relax, cannot open their minds to learning, without it. No, not all dogs need meds but the taboo of using medication to help humans with their “mental” issues along with our pups needs to be left in 1950. There is NO shame if you need to seek help.


    Minette Reply:

    Yes, I can only conquer so many topics in one article. I do have an article on using meds and some on desensitization and counter conditioning and one on true phobias, although it is probably time to revisit those subjects as well.


  21. Brenda says:

    Interesting post this time. It speaks to my Lucy the collie who was flat out afraid of doors when I got her. All the vet said was that some dogs are like that. I know that the breeder did not do this. And in my numerous replies about how this made housetraining problematic. So with this in mind what could I do? I got another collie, Nina the Coffee Bean and she had no door problems. Still Lucy is not gullible (good for her) so it took quite a while. And I just let Lucy do what she did with doors. Now she is about 5 and she will go out the door. We have a procedure but it works. As for housetraining I discovered that they have a time limit. Can’t blame them for that. I still don’t know what made Lucy so scared of doors but it doesn’t matter now. I just had to find something that worked.


  22. Gezza says:

    Hi There, Always great info.
    we have a 3 year old Staffie girl ,loves everyone & everything,very good ,except whenever we get out the stepladder inside, or my husband does any maitenence work outside with even just a screwdriver she runs inside to family members for comfort
    Would appreciate any advise , Gezza


    Minette Reply:

    I would make the step ladder be part of daily life for a while read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/chair-terror/


  23. Lisa r says:

    I have a question how do u help your dog with fear of another dog our shitzu got attacked by a lab and now our shitzu is very scared of being around him they both live with me tin is the shitzu and Charlie is the lab well Charlie attacked tin and took his eye out so he’s missing his eye how do I help them they fought cause our female dog was in heat what do I do to help tin he’s been in our room since it happened thanks Lisa r


    Minette Reply:

    Imagine living with someone who abused, raped or tried to kill you. Imagine the trauma and the fear. This is not something that is going to be easy and even though you feel it was only about the female, I worry for Tin.

    Most often even fights over females don’t get that ugly.

    I recommend a vet behaviorist to see how badly Tin is wounded emotionally and to see how Charlie reacts. Someone needs to witness it so that both dogs aren’t made worse.


    Lisa Reply:

    I’ll ask my vet I think that we will get rid of Charlie I want tin to feel safe doc birch will tell me more cause tin is my hero we had a fire in the house one night n he saved us he had kept jumping on me til I woke thank god for tin or it could’ve been much worse


  24. Shannon says:

    Yellow bandanas (or other yellow accessories can be very handy in these situations 🙂 although I’ve been surprised to find out how many people don’t understand their meaning.


  25. Laura Brill says:

    Found this article very interesting. A lot of useful and in depth information here that leads to a very thorough understanding of why fear in dogs can be so dangerous and how it can come about. I have written about aggressive dogs on my own dog training website but feel that this article goes into detail in explaining how fear can lead to aggression and the signs to look out for and also encourages the owner to put themselves in the dog’s shoes – something we may not always consciously do. I particularly like the tips on what you as a dog owner can do to help dogs to overcome a particular fear.


    Minette Reply:

    Thank you 🙂 I appreciate your kudos 🙂


  26. Monica says:

    I have a rescue dog that I have had for a year and a half. She was still young when we adopted her (around4-5 months old) and was terrified of everything. She is doing much better, but there are still a lot of things that she is obviously scared of. One of these is riding in the car. She trusts me enough to get in the vehicle when I ask her to, but she shakes, paces, pants, her tail is down, and keeps nudging my arm while I’m driving so I’ll touch her, etc. the whole time. I take her in the car at least once a week. Is there something I should do or not do to help her?


    Minette Reply:

    I would try crating her; sometimes being in their own house makes them much more comfortable. And, read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dogs-carsickness/


  27. Jess says:

    (I wrote a really long comment yesterday but my internet is so bad it lagged and it didn’t post, I’m going to make it as short as i can) My dog is five, He’s a Carkie (Yorkie-Cairn cross) I fostered him 3 years ago and later adopted him. When i got him he loved people and dogs. Now i can’t take him out off lead. He started off not liking big male dogs now he can’t play with any without getting violent. Now new people (mainly men) can’t come near me without a warning nip. Ive always followed the bullet points you’ve listed. He’s very obedient and well trained. 20 of his tricks he’s learnt to do through hand gestures. I don’t punish or reward him when he does naughty things. I Have such a strong bond with my fluffy mister an 99% of the time he’s completely obedient! Last night my Dad went to give me a hug and My sweetness bit him HARD! Swollen bleeding hand hard. I love my Dog like a child, he’s my entire life. Im terrified he’s going to really hurt another animal or person trying to look after me. Ever since a got him I’ve made it know I’m the boss, i don’t show any weakness in front of him. I don’t know why he still protects me so fiercely. Please help!


    Minette Reply:

    After there is a bite you are in need of some serious help from a veterinary behaviorist. I can’t see your dog or his behaviors and to keep him from doing this to other people (who will report him and he may be deemed dangerous and in need of euthanasia) you need someone who can see him and put you BOTH on a behavior modification program.

    Read this and find one online or ask for a referral from your vet http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/recommend-veterinary-behaviorist-dog-trainer/


  28. Becky says:

    Hi Minette,
    I have a 1 yr old goldendoodle and 4 children (ages 9,7,4,&3). I have caught my goldendoodle (Chase) growling at my 4 yr old daughter. It doesn’t happen very often, but it makes me nervous. My daughter is very affectionate and loves to give Chase big hugs around his back. I’ve had discussions with my daughter that there are times that we shouldn’t hug Chase (i.e., when he has a treat or bone). I’ve noticed he’ll also do it if he needs a nap or is tired. If I catch him, I have been removing him from the situation and putting him in his kennel for some quiet time / nap. Obviously, i need to keep on my kids about respecting the dog. It’s an infrequent behavior, BUT, how do I teach Chase that growling at the kids is not ok?


    Minette Reply:

    kids should NEVER hug dogs read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/give-kiss-understanding-dog-language/

    Even if you ever have that ONE dog that doesn’t mind being hugged there are dogs out there that will maul children or adults for hugging them.

    Your children need to be frightened to the point that this doesn’t ever happen again. I might just add we are 11 days into the new year and already 2 people have been KILLED by dogs and these were both adult males.

    As far as the dog goes you need a veterinary behaviorist immediately not a trainer and not in a few weeks or months.

    I had a client who’s Golden was hugged by their 3 year old and nearly killed. He needed several reconstructive face surgeries (most dogs bite children in the face because it is closer and they bite each other in the face usually). He will never, ever, ever look the same.

    Growling is a warning and after a few good growls the dog thinks there are few other options other than biting and some dogs bite to make an immediate point so that it will never happen again.

    Read this and get into a behaviorist NOW http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/recommend-veterinary-behaviorist-dog-trainer/


  29. Cati Foss says:

    I am currently living with a 7 month old mini aussie that is fearful of strangers and men. Sadly, she is still afraid of my husband (we have had her for 6 weeks.) She came to us as a resource guarder towards other dogs. That particular issue we got squared away quickly as my 10 month old Sheltie is extremely passive and they are now best friends and share food and toys with zero problems. (The previous owner’s answer was to correct, remove, and isolate the dog for resource guarding and that was only escalating the dog’s issues.) Now, the mini aussie is very good around other dogs and children as long as they respect her personal space and let her approach first (and I tell everyone in advance that they need to give us space… if they won’t respect it, I give us space myself.) She is getting more and more confident around every stranger we come across and the fact that they won’t hurt her because I control all stranger exposure. She was also trained never to take food from anyone but the previous owner and any show handler she worked with using punishment based training, so she is very fearful and shut down if anyone attempts to offer her food straight away. Again, I just tell strangers and friends alike to ignore her and as I see her body language relax and she willingly approaches them several times over, they may try to offer her food (with no eye contact, or talking, or reaching to pet her if she takes the food.) So far she has come leaps and bounds with that. (My good friend, who is a male, babysat her for us one day and she was literally crawling into his lap begging for belly rubs and pets.)

    Now onto the actual issue I am having trouble pinpointing. When it comes to her issues with my husband specifically, she just finally started taking food from him about 3 days ago (hallelujah!) She takes it very cautiously, but we never force her to take it and we let her back off as much as she likes. Just yesterday, she willingly took it from him without me or our Sheltie in the room. My husband has been listening to everything I have told him to do at this point. (Ignoring her as if she doesn’t exist, not making eye contact, no talking to her, no sudden movements when he is working with her, etc.) I have clicker trained her and work very frequently on doing a treat party every time my husband comes home, enters the room, every time she looks at him, approaches him, nose pokes him, licks him, etc. But if he coughs, sneezes, accidentally looks at her, moves after being still for long periods etc; she barks, runs away, paces restlessly, and keeps woofing at him for just existing. She got a bit better after she began taking food from him, but she is still anxious. I view her taking food from him as a HUGE victory knowing her history. I also believe that with plenty of time and continuing the CC&D measures we have implemented, she will come around.

    Am I on the right track? Is there anything else that I can be doing to help improve her bond with my husband?


    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dog-hates-husband/


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