Proof That Your Dog’s Fear Can Be Fixable: From Fearful to Playful in Less than 5 Minutes
I wrote an article not too long ago about dog fears and all the ways we as humans can make our dogs’ fears worse, without meaning to!
I think, as humans, we see fears in animals and it almost cripples us and shuts us down.
We do all that we can to then avoid that situation, or any situation that even resembles what brought on our dog’s fears.
It is difficult to see them shake, cower, try to run away, bark ferociously or aggress.
But avoidance can make future fears worse and doesn’t allow your dog to create coping mechanisms to deal with fearful situations.
And, I think we can all admit that life is full of fearful situations for animals and for humans. The difference is that we teach our children coping skills and do our best to eradicate their unrealistic fears.
Flooding a dog by exposing them to their fears and forcing them to cope can be even worse. I’ll touch on that more, later in this article.
Helping My Own Puppy Face His Fear
I remember a few years ago, I was traveling with my 9 month old puppy, who has never been the bravest soul.
I stopped at a fairly deserted, vintage gas station to fill up and they had an old antique gas pump over by the field where I was headed to allow him to relieve himself.
It was huge, and built like a 6’8″ linebacker that looked like it was ready to pounce as it lumbered over us.
My other dog hadn’t even noticed it, but my puppy was pretty sure it was a human, and the devil, lying in wait to eviscerate him.
He went nuts, barking and darting backward, hackles raised and spitting.
I had to laugh, because I knew it was a “thing” and nothing to be afraid of at all.
I refused to leave without him coming to the same conclusion, so we slowly made our way toward it. Eventually, working at his pace and allowing him to threaten to kill it, I was able to sit on the ground right next to it and tap on its outer tinging metal.
I never once said “It’s okay, it’s okay”, or praised him for his behavior. I just laughed at him and continued along in my lighthearted way. The last thing I wanted was to praise him or add stress to his already stressful situation.
He crept up and sniffed it and play bowed at me, because he was so relieved that it was not some kind of human in armor waiting to murder us.
It took probably 7 minutes of my time to get him from terrified to confident.
Then he almost glided back to the car afterward, barely lifting his head as we passed the object again. As if to say “I’m not afraid of YOU.”
The worst thing I could have done would have been to coddle him or to have ushered him into the car and found another spot for him to pee.
He needed to feel like he “conquered” his fears.
And, I wanted him to do it alone, so he didn’t really feel reliant on me. After all, he may be afraid of something some day when I am not there! He needs his own coping skills as often as he can learn them.
What To Do To Help A Dog Overcome His Fear
I wanted to find a video of a dog that was terrified but was able to overcome his fear in a positive way on his own time.
I found a video of a dog in a shelter, where the shelter staff was basically unable to touch the dog; until a confident, kind, and patient volunteer came in to work with him.
Nothing is more stressful than living in a shelter and having to overcome your fears in that environment.
So if you think your dog is too scared to overcome his fears, or you don’t want to stress him/her out or make it worse, watch the above video for proof that it just takes some kindness and patience!
Don’t pressure the dog, don’t force the dog; wait for the dog to engage YOU!
Put the dog at ease, go slowly, don’t force yourself or the fear upon the dog.
As his interest is peaked and he is rewarded, his fears begin to subside on their own. Dogs are not great multi-taskers, so if you can introduce an incompatible behavior (coming in for the treat), you decrease the fearful hiding in the corner.
Once he creates his own coping mechanisms and learns trust he can feel free to engage in his environment and learns to relax and enjoy life.
Check him out now!!!! With some time and effort, and proper training, this dog was able to overcome his fears and undoubtedly was adopted.
What Not To Do
Now…check out this video of forcing socialization on a scared dog; this is the opposite of the above video.
This video kills me! I HATE IT! Instead of allowing the dog to work at her on pace, this dog is “flooded” as the person forces herself on the dog and waits for the dog to “get over it”. The screaming hurts my soul.
The dog wants to bite the lady and be left alone. Thankfully, clearly, this dog has a kind soul, so she doesn’t bite. Or she is too terrified to follow through with the bite.
I wish the dog in this video had the opportunity of being worked with by the man in the first video.
She needed to be worked with slowly, over many days, feeding and quietly sitting in the kennel while never being touched.
And, even though it shows that the dog is better and more rehabilitated in the end, I can guarantee that the dog in the first video has less fear and lasting effects from the techniques used.
Just watch to see the difference and why you should avoid “flooding”.
I think it clearly shows how “flooding” can actually make dog aggression and behaviors worse.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.