Training a Dog to Not Be Afraid

Dogs may experience fear in certain situations, either due to temperament or past experiences. This is a guide about training a dog to not be afraid.

December 9, 2015 Flag
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We have construction going on in front of our house. My puppy wasn't afraid of it until one morning she woke and jumped in bed with me and has been scared to death since. She won't go outside and she would always go outside no problem! She paces back and forth. I try to comfort her. It only works for a minute. What to do? Help please!

December 13, 20150 found this helpful
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Try a thunder shirt. They are made for animals who are afraid in storms. They are very effective. You can find them online mostly

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December 21, 20150 found this helpful
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August 30, 2012 Flag
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I have a 16 yr old dog that has always had anxiety issues. Lately it is out of control. I have a huge lawn for him to run and play in. I have always been able to just let him out without supervision. (He is way to scared to go anywhere.) He just runs around the house which has always been good exercise for him. He actually has a path.

Lately he will not go outside, I have to drag him out with a leash. When outside he runs around the house to all of the doors ripping the molding off, chewing the door knobs, and jumping up and scratching the doors destroying them. He has torn all of the rubber molding off, so there are holes in the bottom of the doors. I am so afraid he is going to break the sliding glass window. I have tried blocking the doors with things, but he just destroys the stuff. His ultimate goal is to get back in the house. Even when I am outside with him he just walks at my feet tripping me.

While inside he just paces back and forth causing him to breathe heavily so he throws up all over. He has started peeing and pooping in the house because he hates going out. At night he sleeps on the floor in my room (on his $150 memory foam bed). All night he keeps me up running around the room panting and acting as if something is spooking him. If I lock him out of the room he destroys the door to get back in.

I have had him since a puppy. He has never been abused. I do have a crate that I keep him in when I leave. Lately it is the only place he can be because he is making me mental. I don't want to constantly leave him in there what should I do?


September 3, 20120 found this helpful
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It may be a kind of dementia since your doggie is so old. I recently took our 14-year-old Lab mix to the vet with the same issues, and the vet gave us some Valium for Max when he demonstrates his anxiety. The vet said that the issues could well be due to Max's age and mental status.

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September 3, 20120 found this helpful
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April 7, 2008 Flag
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I have a 1 1/2 year old Basenji. She is scared of everything! She gets scared of the wind blowing, sounds, people, leaves, lint, inanimate objects, etc. She doesn't urinate everywhere, but if it is bad enough, she will have leakage from her anal glands. She will run off and hide, shake, or get all weirded out by pacing back and forth with her tail down looking like she has no idea how to get away. What should I do? It is very frustrating!

Melinda from Houston, TX

April 9, 20080 found this helpful
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I would definitely discuss the situation with your vet. They do sometimes prescribe anti-anxiety meds for dogs, and this would probably help. You also probably have some dog "behaviorists" in Houston, and they deal more with psychological issues. (doggy shrinks)

I give one of my dogs a product from Drs.Foster and Smith catalog (also have a website) called "Ultra Calm Biscuits". It is an herbal blend, shaped like a dog treat. It really takes "the edge off." But my dog is old and just recently suffers from anxiety. Since your dog is so young, you should probably try to treat the source of the behavior first, rather than just medicating the symptoms. Good luck! I am sure it can be helped.

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July 2, 20100 found this helpful
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October 22, 2010 Flag

Put a baby gate at the third step from the bottom of the stairs. Hide upstairs and call the dog to you. He will be able to go up the three stairs because he does not feel he will fall.

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May 4, 2012 Flag
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I took on a friend's female Bishon who is 2 years old. They bred dogs and she was one of their breeding dogs, but they had not bred her yet. They were getting older and need to get rid of the animals.

She had very little human contact so they were not able to sell her. They were going to take her to the pound so I asked if I could have her. The first week was a nightmare. She wouldn't come near me and hid in the bushes, rain, shine, or cold. Little by little I got her to come in the house. It has been about six months and she stays in the house most of the time. She won't let me touch her except when she is in her bed and I can pet her. She will run up to me, but never closer than arms length. When she is outside she runs around in circles. She will stand in the living room growling for no reason at all. I was able to pick her up when some friends were here (I had to get her in the bedroom in her bed before I could pick her up).

I took her into where they were and was going to show my friend how she was licking her self raw on her bottom. Well she did everything she could to get down and she pooped she was so scared and I let her down because she was way too strong for me. To get her to come into the house or a room I have to step away and then close the door after her. She will run around for hours.

We took her out with my friend's other dogs to run in the pasture and she stayed up by the fence and ran up and down it and never came to be with the other dogs. In the car she is terrified. I had her clipped and they said she was scared, but other than that she was OK. My friend took her for a walk with her other dogs, all on a leash, and at first Daisy was fine and then out of the blue she went wild. She wasn't sure what to do, but try and calm her down and Daisy bit her. So she just kept walking and she felt the lead getting strange and looked and she was dragging Daisy so she picked her up and carried her the rest of the way.

My friend keeps saying she is mentally damaged. I have been giving her magnesium, but it only makes her sleepy in the day and freaky at night. Can anyone tell me if they have ever heard of this before and is there hope for my Daisy?

By Karen MC

May 6, 20120 found this helpful
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Hate to say this but it sounds like your friend was running a puppy mill. I don't understand how this Bishon had no human contact. Your friend may have been hitting and punishing this poor dog. Bishons are extremely friendly and excellent family dogs so things are not adding up.

Please give this poor dog time to start trusting humans again. It sounds like you are making progress but do not expect it to happen over night. It sounds like they may have hit her if she is afraid of your hands. Show her the back of your hands not your fingers. This helps to reassure a dog you are not going to hurt her. Her bed is her safe zone. She is licking herself raw because she is extremely stress out. Give her time to come to you.

If we were being abused, we would have a hard time trusting again. Trust has to come on the dog's time not ours.

You will need a lot of time and patience but once this poor dog starts to trust you, you will see her/him blossom.

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May 7, 20120 found this helpful
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October 1, 2008 Flag
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I have a 3 yr old mini Dachshund with 2 problems. She is my first non-rescue dog and I don't know what to do for her "reverse sneezes" and her fearfulness. The only thing she is not afraid of is people. If I wipe her feet of sand, she will shy away for days, etc. I have never seen a non abused dog as fearful as she is. Any ideas?

Cheryl from Palomino Valley, NV

October 1, 20080 found this helpful
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We have a dachshund that gets the reverse sneezes when he gets too excited. At my dog's social manners class when my doxie had them, the trainer covered both his nostrils for just a few seconds and the sneezes disappeared.

As far as the other behavior, just love and lots of postive reinforcement, but remember that Doxies need gentle discipline - they are very smart and can become very spoiled very easily.

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful
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January 18, 2008 Flag
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My American Bulldog is 5 months old and he terrified of everything. He is scared of boxes, bags, my hands. I try to play with him and he run away with his tail between his legs. I don't know what's wrong but I am worried about him. If I try and ignore him he starts panting and crying. I don't know what to do. Will he grow out of this?


January 18, 20080 found this helpful
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I'd suggest getting your dog in a training class right away. You need a class that has puppy play and socialization, as well as formal obedience. This guy sounds like he needs confidence boosting, so a class using positive reinforcement is a MUST. You don't say how long you have had the dog, but you need to try and make up some ground QUICKLY!! Start slowly and start doing things that are not too overwelming. Teach the pup to sit on your lap and jump slowly pet and massage him while talking softly. Use small food treats to make the experience a positive one. Small sessions several times a day are best and never force him to do anything. You want his experiences to be positive and confidence boosting, not scary and overwhelming which will make the problem worse. Does he walk happily on a leash? If not work on getting him to walk on the leash using the food treats as a reward. Avoid any harsh words or stearn tones and instead use a happy upbeat praising voice. Once you get into the class you might be suprised at his improvements! I'm sure the trainer can offer helpful suggestions to help him. I would also contact the breeder and ask some questions. Are other pups having this problem? The breeder needs to know to better understand their breeding program. Goodluck!

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January 28, 20080 found this helpful

October 7, 2008 Flag
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Should a Pit Bull puppy fear his owner? Should he be yelping out as if his owner is seriously hurting him? Should he be shaking in his owner's presence and hold his head low?

October 7, 20080 found this helpful
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This dog has been abused. Extra care and attention will be needed to bring him back. We have adopted many dogs and have seen this in 1 or 2. He will come around if loved hard, but may become a 1 person dog if you aren't careful. Pitbulls are not really bad agressive dogs, the owners create this trait. The sweetest dog I have ever owned was a Pit, I just put her down last year at 17 years old and still really miss her.


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January 11, 20120 found this helpful

March 3, 2016 Flag
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This is a guide about training a dog to be less afraid of people. Previous treatment and life experiences can leave a dog with a fear of humans.

Large red dog cowering and looking at a man's outstretched hand

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October 9, 2012 Flag
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How to break a dog from being scared of everything!

By MShearron from Nashville

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October 11, 20120 found this helpful
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First thing to do is learn a new pet vocabulary that doesn't include the word 'break'. Believe it or not, using words like 'break' in relation to training a pet can set up a mindset that uses fear to train, and since you are hoping to help your dog adjust to things that frighten him, fear is probably going to be counter-productive.

Right then, on to helping your little guy...

Is he a pure-bred dog, and if yes, where did you get him? It's possible that he is the result of poor breeding practices and either has some neurological problems that cause him to 'startle' easily, or he suffered abuse before becoming part of your family.

Is he a rescue? Even more likely he suffered some abuse.

Have him examined by a good canine vet to be sure he doesn't have physiological problems that can be alleviated with medication, improperly healed fractures or other injuries from past abuse. A canine vet is one who specialises in canine care and should be able to perform an exam that will answer those questions, and will also be able to advise on ways to help your little guy overcome his fears.

One especially successful assist to the process is to provide your dog with a 'safe place' he knows is his alone and is somewhere he can go to take a time out from the upsetting stimuli. Wire crates work well if you place it somewhere there is no household traffic, like a bedroom or study used by his favourite person. Drape a blanket over the crate to create a dark, warm, private spot-he'll instinctively see this as a 'den' and will retreat to it when ever he is needing some physical and emotional space.

By now you surely have a feel for the things that frighten him-doorbells, loud voices, too many people at one time, pots and pans clanking, etc. Know what upsets him, and remove him to the crate if you are going to be unable to control those stimuli.

Put him in the crate but don't latch the crate, close the door to the room the crate is in-this will give him a sense of control (he can get out of the crate if he wants to) and also help him to trust you that you will protect him from the things that frighten him without 'punishing' him for being afraid by locking him up.

Gradually bring the crate closer to the areas where the frightening events occur. Speak calmly and matter of factly whenever the frightening events occur as you move him to the crate so that he understands you are in control and can protect him from the scary stuff.

It will take a lot of time and patience on your part, and the part of any household members. But the effort is well worth it. Back in the mid-seventies I rescued a young dog (about four months old at the time) who had been badly abused; it took nearly a year to help her but that hard work on our part (and her's, imagine how hard it is for a dog to confront and overcome fear must be!) paid off.

She lived another 15 years and was a very important member of our family, teaching both my children to walk by patiently permitting them to clutch onto her thick fur and then slowly walking them around the house. She was also bar none the best watch dog we ever had, preventing two burglaries over the 15 years she was with us.

Check your library and the Internet for books on helping a dog overcome debilitating fear, and remember, the word 'break' is no longer a part of your animal companionship vocabulary:)

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October 10, 20120 found this helpful
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