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.

A dog that is afraid.
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Question: Puppy Afraid of Construction Equipment

By Gigi 1

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!

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    Most Recent Answer

    By Kate I. 3 12/21/2015 Flag

    The worst thing you can do is try to comfort the dog. Things like petting her and cooing "Now, now, it's okay" are only going to reinforce her fear response. Why? Because she thinks you are praising it. You can help her get used to loud noise by ignoring it or pretending to ignore it. Simply go about your business. Ignore any unwanted behavior from the dog. It may be too late, but try it anyway.

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    Question: My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

    By melinda 1

    Frightened DogI 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

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    By munckin26 1 03/03/2013 Flag

    I have a three year old brittany spaniel/English setter. My step sister had a son and we baby sit him every once and a while. But when Carson which will be one in a couple weeks, comes near my dog the dog bolts and some times he growls at him. Every once in a while the dog will start to shake. We really want to know what's wrong and why he can't just get along the first time.

    It had happened Carson went up to the dog and the dog growled at him. So my dad yelled at the dog and ever since the dog will bolt away from him. The dog can't even look at Carson. Please help.

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    Question: Puppy Fears His Owner

    By Christina 1

    Should a Pitbull puppy fear his owner? Should he be yelping out as if his owner is seriously hurting him? Should he be shaking in his owners presence and hold his head low?

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    By Danielle Marie A. 1 06/19/2015 Flag

    I have a pit bull for 2 years now. She has never been is still showing that she is fearful of me. When I get upon my bed or on my couch she runs and hides to her kennel but after sitting there for a minute she will come back. Why is?

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    Question: American Bulldog Puppy is Scared of Everything

    By sophia 1

    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?


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    Most Recent Answer

    By D (Guest Post) 01/28/2008 Flag

    Yes, the dog will pant and cry some but if they see that their leader is confident enough not to be concerned and focused on the offending item; they WILL come to realize the thing that's scaring them is nothing to be concerned about.

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    Tip: Alleviate Your Dog's Fear Of Rain

    By Robyn 376 753

    I have had a lot of success with my Catahoula/Rottie doggie, Bruno, by teaching him what the noise outside was when the rain hit the ground. Also when thunder happens. I expect a little bit of regression if there is an unusually loud clap of thunder. I will do the same thing, and say in a rather clipped voice, "rain" and then praise after three seconds.

    Bruno would have an unusual response to rain that included breathing difficulty and shaking and distraction and wanting to lay close to us and not being calm and enjoying life at all.

    I thought of the concept of teaching him a word that would replace whatever he had in his mind that he associated with that noise. So whenever it would begin to rain or thunder, I begin the vocabulary training. I started saying "rain" in a firm, short voice. Then about two or three seconds later I tell Bruno he is a good boy in a confident friendly voice.

    The main reason I think this has been working is that the dog's mind cannot place what the noise is. I was discussing with a friend on Facebook who also has a dog that has this fear, and we decided she would do the recordings and say the word "rain" and then "good boy". I would do the word "rain" without the recordings of rain and thunder, only when it actually happened.

    I am happy to report a decrease in the shaking and vibrating bed situation when it thunders and rains. The fear is not completely gone, but the reaction to it has gone down tremendously.

    Before he would come over and shake himself to a frenzy. Since I have been doing this (and I have probably done it about 10 times since I had started it), he looks at me and then turns around and lays down. At this point, I tell him "good boy".

    On another note, he is a dog that needs lots of jobs. He feels this is a job, knowing what the sound is. He gets praised for doing the right thing, and then lays down or goes off and gets interested in something else.

    I had to share this, because, honestly, I didn't hold out much hope that it would work. One of the things that might be a reason it works, is the firm use of the word rain, and the lack of feeling sorry for the dog who is scared and reinforcing the fear again and again by showing "pity."

    In training with positive reinforcement, the command is said in a not very happy tone, a firm and bored tone. Three seconds are allowed and then the dog is praised with a lot of emotion in the voice or played with a favorite toy with a lot of happiness.

    So for what this is worth, save your money on the dog vests and teach your dog a new vocabulary word.

    Alleviate Your Dog's Fear Of Rain

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      Question: Dog Is Afraid Of Everything But People

      By Cheryl Lee 1 1

      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

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      By charlene (Guest Post) 01/28/2009 Flag

      My female 7mo old Pitbull is not as Tough as most expect a pitbull to be. She acts nothing like a "pitbull". She is very friendly and playful. She never shows aggression. She is a great dog! but she is so very sensitive! She gets so scared if you slightly raise your voice or look at her without a smile.

      If she jumps up onto the couch (where she's not supposed to be) and I speak in my strict voice and say "Get down off the couch" she will put her ears down, tail between her legs, start shaking and freeze. I do not hit her nor has she ever been hit, but she will get very scared when I'm trying to discipline her by changing the sound of my voice to serious.

      It makes it very hard to teach her anything, and she will not relax even when I lay with her in my bed. She will move to the other side of the bed and watch me till I fall asleep. What am I doing wrong? She is too paranoid. I feel like she doesn't trust me and is completely terrified of me. My other 2 dogs are so different. they are completely normal and comfortable around me all the time? Why?

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      Tip: Treating Dog's Fear of Stairs

      By Robyn Fed 394 1,240

      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. However, he won't be able to come past the three stairs, so his fear response won't be reinforced. Come down to him and put the baby gate up three more stairs and go back up and call him if he hasn't already climbed them. Keep on doing this, and treating him with love and soft words, and soon he should lose his fear of falling. Hopefully. :)

      Source: pets section

      By Robyn Fed from Hampton, TN

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      Question: Puppy Afraid After Dog Attack

      By Sunny Nandal 1

      I have 4 month old Rottweiler. A few days back he was under attack by a dog. After that he never comes in front of any dog, he hides behind me and starts running. If a dog is far away then he stands confidentially, but when the dog comes near, even a 2 month puppy, he starts shaking. What should I do?

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        Most Recent Answer

        By Abigail A. 15 1,018 06/14/2015 Flag

        It's going to take practice, patience and positive reinforcement.

        Go out with a pocket full of treats. Have the puppy on a short leash, not a flexi leash. Make sure the leash is only long enough to reach the puppy if he is right next to you.

        You'll need a friend's help with this. Someone who has a very well behaved dog. When you walk the puppy, stand up straight, shoulders back. Be calm. Your dog will know the difference.

        Your friend is walking her dog toward your direction. Walk straight by without acknowledging the other dog. If your puppy freaks out and gets tangled up, stop and go back a ways, then start over. Don't talk to your puppy or pet him and don't pull on the leash. You should be holding it loosely looped around your hand. It's your puppy doing this, not you.

        When your dog completes a pass, wait until he stops shaking (this is important!) and then reward him. He needs to be calm when you reward him. If he isn't calm, resist the urge to give him a treat.

        The trick here is patience. If you find yourself gripping the leash tightly or pulling the dog, stop for a bit and decompress. You're getting impatient. This might take a while.

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        Question: Dog Suddenly Afraid of Floors

        I have a 2 year old English Mastiff that out of nowhere has developed a fear of floors. How can I get him past this fear?

        By Ann S from Langhorne, PA

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        By Loth 1 18 02/01/2015 Flag

        Do his nails need trimming? If they are long they make a tap-tap-tap noise as they walk across the floor and I've seen that frightened several dogs.

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        Question: Training a Needy Skittish Puppy

        I have a 6 month old female hound mix puppy. She is becoming more afraid of everything. She acts like she needs constant attention and wants to sit up under someone constantly all day. She can't stand to be at least 3 feet away from someone. It seems like its getting worst.

        By Jennifer M.

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        Most Recent Answer

        By DCA 4 1,323 11/29/2014 Flag

        Please take your puppy to a vet for help. If you do not know what is making the puppy so wary, you may not be able to help and the problem will just become worse. The vet is trained in assessing possible behavior, medical, etc., problems with animals and can help you help your puppy.

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        Question: My Dog is Afraid of Things Over his Head

        Most of the time my dog's a great dog. He's awesome with people, other animals, kids, and almost everything. The only problem is he's afraid when things go over his head. He will run and slink down. I don't really have anyone to help me, so what can I do to help him overcome this fear?

        By Brian

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        Most Recent Answer

        By Abigail A. 15 1,018 11/21/2014 Flag

        You can have sessions with a squeaky toy or something else he likes. Move the toy all around, and sometimes over his head. Give him a treat every time the toy goes over his head, even if he slinks down. Make the sessions short.

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        Question: Dog Afraid of Cars and Men

        My 3 year old Malamute is scared of men and cars, men are the worst. She can't pass men on the street. I think the previous owner was a bad person and she got badly beaten. She is so lovely and my family loves her to bits. She finally got a good home, but it's difficult to watch when she is so scared.

        By peter

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        By Cheryl DeMunbrun 1 03/04/2014 Flag

        I don't have an answer for you, except that my Shih Tzu is the same way with men. She was 10 weeks old when I got her and she loves my grown son and is warming up to my son-in-law but does not like any other men. She, however, loves women and girls. I tend to think she was mistreated by the man of the house where I got my girl 6 years ago!

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        Question: Training a Dog to Not Be Afraid

        By 1

        My 6.5 month old German Shepherd is scared of cartoons and other dogs. If someone comes into our house she will bark, but if that guy is clothed she will be run and bark from far:-( What can I do? I want to train her to attack and bite.

        By Raz from Netherland

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        By Marg 16 435 09/16/2014 Flag

        Why on earth do you want to train her to attack? That asking for trouble.

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        Question: Working With a Skittish Dog

        By Crystal 2 2

        I have this dog and have had her for years. She's very very skittish of everything. I'm going out of my mind with her. We moved to a new apartment in February (it's July) and she's great in the apartment, but once she goes outside she's terrified of any kind of noise. At the dog park she's more confident and she only goes there once or twice a week. She goes outside here at least 3 times a day if not more.

        We just bought her a self feeding water bowl and she's terrified of it when it bubbles so she won't even go near it. We put down a regular water bowl and now she's scared of it too thinking it will bubble. I'm at a loss with her.

        By Crystal from Tallahassee, FL

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        By Doejo 1 4 07/10/2010 Flag

        Hi, I understand your problem completely. I had the same problem with my dog, only other problem is my dog is blind (Ya, that's an issue) First if its storming or a loud shaking noise carefully lead her into the bathtub. Mostly they are afraid of the vibrations going through the ground.

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        Question: Dog Afraid of Training Building

        My dog after 3 months of excellent trainning is suddenly afraid of the building. What should I do to help my dog overcome this fear? She moved up to the highest level in August. The class was in a smaller room and I thought that was why she became scared. I took her back to the larger room, but it did not make a difference. She shakes and pulls for the door the entire time we are there. She stares at the ceilings and air handling unit. I thought it was the noise from the unit that scared her. But she is scared even with the unit off. When I take her outside she is completely calm. She will do everything she is asked to do.

        By Diane

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        Question: Dog Afraid After Guests Visited

        She was a lap dog, not afraid. We had company for four days and the man sat in my husband's chair and every time he moved it made a loud noise. His cell phone was turned up loud. Now she is afraid of my lap in my chair and walks around both chairs. She wants on the bed and in my closet. She will be with me in my computer room and on my lap. She wants outside and I have to carry her back in most of the time. She can see my chair when she comes in. I don't know what to do to help her get over this. I miss her on my lap.

        By Jeanne from The Villages, FL

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        Question: Bichon Afraid of Strangers

        We adopted a Bichon that was 1 1/2 yrs old. She was raised in a home with a small child and the owner bred other dogs. She is very loving to everyone in our family. But when a stranger gets near her she is scared to death. She barks nonstop at them. Also she is petrified scared of any small child. It makes it difficult to walk her if people are outside. Any suggestions?

        By AmyJo

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        Question: Dog Afraid to Go Outside

        I have a 6 month old Bull Mastiff that used to be penned up in a 14 x 14 kennel. I moved out of that place and my ex didn't want her cause of how skittish she is. I now have her and my other dog in a garage and I can't get her to go outside. She pees and poos on the cement floor and she is scared of everything. How do I teach her to go outside to do her business? I know I can't get mad at her for going in the garage cause that's not going to help.

        By Crystal G.

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        Question: Working with a Frightened Dog

        I rescued a 1yr old Bouvier about a month ago. She has made amazing strides in that short period of time. She heels, visits with other dogs on our walks, and will let strangers pat her head. We are together constantly so I thought she trusted me even though she still has anxiety in the car and is terrified of my room-mate.

        Today 2 guys that were cleaning the chimney of the wood stove appeared in the family room. She absolutely freaked and I was afraid she was going to go right through a closed window. I tethered her outside (a normal situation because she runs away). There is snow on the ground and it's about 20 degrees and she will not come near the house. I have tried everything! She came in about 4 hrs ago and was traumatized, looking around corners, cowering at every sound.

        I feel helpless. I think she trusts me, but is scared someone is in the house. Any thoughts? I'm afraid she'll freeze! Back to square one. Thanks.

        By Sheri

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        Pets Dogs Training AdviceFebruary 27, 2013
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