Helping YOU to be your dog's best friend!

Fear Related Behaviors In Dogs

Dogs suffer from fear and anxiety for much of the same reasons we do. They may be genetically predisposed to it. Their canine mother may have reared them in a tense fashion. They may have had a tough start in life being abused and or abandoned. Dogs go through critical growth periods just like people. One minor incident that may have occurred and corresponded during a highly impacting critical period can have major long term effects. Many dogs are never even given a chance to learn how to socialize with people or dogs. Whatever the reasons may be dogs didn’t ask for it nor are they able to help themselves. Our dogs are worth helping. They must be saved from a life of sadness. Humane positive based behavior training is the only way to approach this delicate area. May you and your dog have a wonderful, peaceful and happy life together!

  • Look at everything from their point of view.
  • Set your dog up for success – not failure. This means     always thinking ahead not allowing your dog to go in
        situations that you know will trigger the exact response you
        are trying to modify.
  • The slower you work the better for your dog. Note what your     dog’s pace is. (not yours).
  • Figure out what your dog’s top 5 motivators. Food, toys,
        etc. Use them throughout the training. Use them
        generously & vary them. This will be one of the most
        important keys to modifying.
  • The nature of the "treat" – There are several key     components with dealing with a fearful / anxious dog.     Food/treats play a critical role here. No, you are not bribing     your dog, and no, you will not teach your dog to beg. It’s     scientifically proven to increase the rate at which an animal     learns while creating a more solid learning experience. Dog     treats simply don’t work in these cases. (not to mention in any     case) Give your dog a Species Appropriate diet!!
  • Treats outside, inside and all the time!!
  • Consider changing your dog to a high quality food. Ie:     Bravo, Nature’s Variety, etc. Like any living being, the     healthier the diet, the healthier the mind.
  • Identify the triggers that set your dog off. In other words,     carefully observe what your dog is having a difficult time     coping with. Ie: people, maybe just men, other dogs, children,     bikes, sounds, etc. Whatever the triggers are you will need to     be vigilant and always be fully away that you need to be     prepared (ALWAYS) to desensitize your dog.
  • Management - You will need to teach your dog, slowly how to     accept stimuli which is currently scary. The early stages in     particular of training you will need to manage your dog and or     the situation. Ie: if your dog is scared of people then don’t have     a dinner party w/ your dog. Remove your dog and provide     him/her with effective calming tools. Such as: stuffed, frozen     kongs w/ super high value foods, Tranquility drops, etc.
  • Be prepared – ALWAYS. Regardless of what the trigger(s)     is, it you will handle the behavior modification the same way.     So, since food is a golden tool here, you should always,     always, always have it on you. Each and every time a dog is     exposed to a trigger and it is not handled appropriately, you     and your dog will be that much further away from your goal of     helping your dog overcome fears.
  • Eliminate any yelling for behavior. That will simply create     MORE fear! Everything can be handled more effectively with a     redirection of obedience.
  • Reward good behavior!!! Ie: Even when your dog is just “hanging     out“…praise him/her! In other words, catch her doing something     “right”.
  • Read body language – look at your dog’s mouth, ear & tail     carriage and eyes.
  • The slower you work the better for your dog. Note what your     dog’s pace is. (not yours).
  • Desensitization and Counter conditioning – You will be     relying on food, your voice, and physical praise with your dog,     especially when he/she is around triggers. You will gradually     expose your dog to the triggers that are currently causing fear     or anxiety, etc while pairing up a positive. Ie: super high value     food with what she “perceives” as a negative.
  • When you are desensitizing, work very slowly and your goal is to     NOT elicit a response from your dog. When applying
        counter-conditioning, you’ll be redirecting him/her to do something     else – ie: sit … or simply be calm. One of your many     responsibilities is to mark every millisecond of your dog’s calm     behavior. That way THAT is the behavior which will be repeated.
  • Distance – always find what your dog’s safety zone is. If he/she     can deal with someone 15’ away from a trigger, then work 20’     away. Setting them up to succeed. Determine what a polite social     distance for your dog is.
  • Use yourself as a bridge w/ valuable resources. When I say     valuable I mean roasted chicken, beef, cheese, salmon treats.     WHATEVER tickles your dog’s fancy you need to use. Use that     food very generously. Your voice can be a bridge also.
  • Watch body language. Develop an eye for what he/she looks     like prior to getting stressed. Ie: ears back, mouth turned down,     etc. Redirect her before, that way, you are teaching her a new     response right from the get go.
  • Massage your dog!!! It’s a wonderful way to bond and relax your     dog.
  • Try Tranquility Blend Herbs – avail @ my store The Happy     Hound.
  • Calming Chews – chewable treats w/ L-theanine. An amino acid     used to treat anxiety.
  • D.A.P – dog appeasing pheromone. Calms. It mimics a mother’s     pheromones during nursing.
  • The Thundershirt is WONDERFUL for any type of anxiety/fear.
  • Calming signals – watch for them and help your dog through     stressful periods. Some example is: yawning, lip licking, sniffing,     etc.


  • Sound desensitization CDs- available @ www.dogwise.com     “Sounds Good” / Terry Ryan.
  • Treat and retreat – Never let anyone approach a fearful dog.     Everyone and anyone should be instructed to ignore the dog     entirely or stand sideways, avert eyes and for the men, to squat     down and offer a HIGH value food. Allow dog to approach on     his/her terms. No petting at this point. Once you or someone that     your dog is comfortable with is on your dog’s radar, have the     person (or yourself) toss a treat in your dog’s direction then     immediately step back away from your dog. What this does is to     desensitize a dog while allowing them to feel comfortable in the     presence of the person. Begin w/ women first then gradually go to     men.
  • Integrate on leash walks for your dog. A well exercised dog is a     calmer dog. Just be sure that you are not inadvertently exposing     your dog to triggers.
  • When a dog is scared / anxious it is alright to reassure them.     Contrary to years ago trainers and behaviorists believed that by     telling a dog “it’s alright” would reinforce their fear. Modern     studies have shown otherwise. What is even more consoling to a     fragile dog is to make physical contact with them and gently and     compassionately walk them through the difficult period.     Remember to always move them away from the trigger. (or move     the trigger away from them). Adding distance is a valuable     training tool in behavior modification.
  • We asked to have the dogs in our lives. Never, ever give up     on your dog. May you offer your dog patience and every     possible healthy and safe remedy. We bring the power to     teach – dogs bring the eagerness to learn. May you see that     all dogs have a loving heart and an endearing soul.