Behaviour tips for dogs

Fearful Dogs

Here are some tips for working with a fearful dog:

  • Try and keep track of what your dog is scared of – make a list to keep track of these things. This will help you start to identify potential triggers so you know what to work on. For example, maybe you notice your dog is scared of dogs barking. You could then go on Youtube and play with very low volume, a dog barking, while feeding your dog high value treats and doing a fun puzzle toy or play session to pair the barking with something good. By keeping track of these things you can also prevent issues from arising by setting the dog up for success. For example, if your dog is scared of people approaching, then you’ll know when you are walking down the street and see someone coming, to help your dog by increasing distance away from them and going to a safe place, while giving your dog lots of small pieces of rewards while watching the stranger walk at a distance away from them. By teaching your fearful dog that they have choices and can walk away if scared, it will help them default to this behaviour more instead of feeling the need to become reactive or defensive towards a trigger if they feel trapped. By also pairing a trigger with something positive at a safe distance away, this can help create a positive association with the trigger.

  • If your dog hides a lot and is scared to go outside, you may want to try using pee pads to work on house-training to prevent them from continuously having to go outdoors if they are scared. While we don’t recommend training a dog to use pee pads, it may be helpful temporarily to prevent the dog from getting overwhelmed by having to do something so often that is scary for them.

  • Make sure your home is quiet and calm if you have a nervous dog. Dogs need predictability and familiarity especially if they are nervous. By ensuring you keep a consistent routine for your dog, it will help them know what to expect and keep things familiar for them.

  • Give them areas to hide in if they need it. While a dog is adjusting to a new place, they may feel safer hiding. This is totally fine to help them feel a sense of comfort, instead of forcing them to interact if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. If you find your dog is hiding, you can do things like leave high value treats outside of the area they are hiding in so they step out whenever they choose to but pair the environment with good things. You can even put some high value treats outside their hiding area, and do a trail leading around the home for them to go and find, to again, pair being out with positive things but allowing them to do this themselves instead of being forced.

  • Classical music has been proven to help reduce stress in animals. You could try playing some quiet music or white noise to see if this helps reduce stress throughout the day.

  • Work on some mat training. All you need to do for this is pair the blanket or bed with amazing things, like treats. Simply toss treats onto the blanket or bed and let the dog step onto it for the rewards. Continue to give them amazing rewards in this designated area, and anytime you see them in this area, treats rain on them! Click here for a video on teaching relaxation.

  • Be calm with dogs that are very nervous, instead of being too over-excited or hyper. By using a calm gentle voice, this can have a more soothing effect on a nervous dog than being too over-enthusiastic or exuberant.

  • Please see these links for further tips/info:

    Ways to Get a Scared Dog to Trust You

    Accepting Strangers

    Helping a Fearful Dog to Gain Confidence

    Setting Up a Safe Area/Space

    Decompression Walks

    Tips for Dogs Fearful of Going Outside

    Tips for Dogs Who Are Anxious on Walks

    Building Confidence