So, you just went out and adopted a dog and you were hoping you would be able to take your
dog everywhere with you! However, you now you realize your dog is terrified of life in general and you feel bad because you want to help your dog. Here are some tips on how to get the “scared” dog to be a confident dog.
We as humans want to nurture and love our dogs; make everything happy for them; and give our dogs the best life possible. It is only human nature to want to comfort your dog when it is freaking out and terrified of something. However, this is the absolute WORST thing we can do! Dogs don’t need our love when they are scared they need our calm and confident leadership. When we provide comfort to our dog when he or she is freaking out, we actually end up reinforcing their behavior. Your dog sees affection and attention from you as a confirmation that you agree with their behavior. Here is an example. Your dog is terrified of new people and shakes and runs away from the new person. You pick your dog up or crouch down and start petting them and telling them it’s okay and don’t be scared. When your dog ran away and was scared, by showing your dog attention and affection, you have just reinforced his/her behavior and he now thinks that how he/she should act in that situation.
Wait so I just said don’t comfort your dog when it is scared?! Have I lost my mind?!
I haven’t lost my mind, lol, you can still show your dog affection and we encourage you to do so when you agree with their behavior. What you can do instead of showing your dog affection when they are scared is to make sure your dog is wearing a secure collar, such as a martingale collar, and is on a leash. Allow your dog to throw a fit and work through their fear on their own. Once they are not trying to run and hide or growling then you can show them affection or give them a treat. Some dogs will be to scared to even take a treat so you may have to rely on giving them affection instead. Don’t ever punish your dog for being scared, don’t yell at them or raise your voice. It’s okay for them to be scared at first of new people or things or noises. With your patience and dedication to working with them to get through their fears your dog will get better and not be afraid of new situations.
Building trust with your dog is the most important thing to do before you do anything else.
Teaching your dog obedience will help your dog see they can trust you and that you are going to protect them and they don’t need to be afraid of the world. You have their backs and won’t let anyone or anything hurt them.
Dogs aren’t like us. We can’t reason with them by saying “It’s okay baby, mommy has you, don’t be scared” or “Hey this is my friend Elizabeth she is a really nice lady, don’t be scared”. As their leader, please remember that dogs don’t understand our words, they just hear you talking and are reacting to your energy not your words. Instead of trying to talk your dog out of being scared, just stay calm and keep your dog on a leash and let them pick up on your energy and self soothe. You remaining calm is what tells your dog that if you aren’t scared then they shouldn’t be either.
Remember work on your relationship with your new dog and then they will see you as their protector and they will gain confidence if you are their confident leader!