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.
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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: earthclinic.com pets section
By Robyn Fed from Hampton, TN
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.
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Here are questions related to Training a Dog to Not Be Afraid.
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
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.
I have a Pug that's almost 4 years old. All of a sudden when she was standing in front of the TV, something flashed on the screen when it changed scenes and she ran behind the couch and now she won't come in the room when the TV is on. She has always accompanied us in the evening and sat beside us until bedtime. We can't coax her to come sit by us at all now. Any suggestions? She's never been abused and is a very spoiled dog. Thanks.
By Larry H. from Yuba City, CA
You need to associate the TV on with rewarding experiences for your pup. First, get some really good treat - something that your dog gets ONLY while doing this exercise. I suggest you use Natural Balance dog meat rolls or Pet Botanics (only at PetsMart) meat rolls. I'm a dog trainer and use these meat rolls for my training rewards. Cut a portion of the roll into small pea-size treats, a small bag full, be sure to refrigerate the roll and the pieces.
Carry your dog into the room (no treats yet), sit on the floor with her while you hold a treat in front of her nose, turn on the TV at the same time you give her the treat. Leave the TV on while you give her three more treats (1 treat every couple of seconds) and then turn off the TV. Repeat this step five times and then leave the room the last time you turn off the TV.
Repeat this exercise at least 2x/day with at least 2 hours between each exercise repetition, for at least 2 days OR until your dog shows NO fear when you reach to turn on the TV. The purpose of this is to teach your dog that turning on the TV results in her getting very special treats.
Once your dog is calm when you turn on the TV, you will repeat this exercise but this time give her one minute of treats. Not 60 treats, but at least 10, so that she learns the longer the TV is on, the more treats she gets. Every time you feed her a treat say, "Let's watch TV!" Repeat this exercise several times each day for three days.
Note: Be sure to make the treats a portion of her daily food allotment so You don't worry about her gaining weight and give her too few rewards. There is no reason for a dog to gain weight from meat roll treats; just make them a part of her overall food plan for the day.
Step 3 is to say to your dog, "Let's watch TV" and she should come running to the area you've been practicing. When she gets to you, give her a reward, turn on the TV and give her random rewards until the next commercial comes on. Then stop the rewards, let the TV run, and walk out of the room until the commercials are done. Then return to the room saying "let's watch TV", and repeat the random rewards until the next commercial.
Step 4 is to say "let's watch TV", go to your chair or sofa, give her random rewards the entire time the show is on. As the days go by, you'll be able to space out the amount of time between these rewards until you can simply give her a stuffed Kong or special bone when you start watching TV and that will be the end of the issue.
Words to the wise - do NOT rush this process or you'll only end up shooting yourself in the foot. Do NOT progress to the next step until she shows no fear at the current step. Never put her on a leash, wrap her in a blanket or hold her in your arms because she'll feel trapped and that only intensify her fear. Use a very special treat that she gets only for this exercise - do not use for other training purposes until she has successfully overcome this fear issue. And dry biscuits or her dry food won't cut it; use the meat roll or special cheese or whatever she thinks is the best reward in the world. This food reward is meant to please her, not to please you. Have fun while doing this exercise; laugh, play, keep it light. She needs to know that you think this a fun exercise not a pain for you to do to help her. Dogs are expert body language interpreters and if you sigh, grimace, or show frustration your dog will know it and you will be intensifying her fear.
Finally - Be sure that she doesn't have any peripheral eye issues or hearing issues that may have contributed to her fear of whatever happened on the screen.
Good luck! You and your sweet Pug can soon become good friends with the TV again!
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
By charlene (Guest Post)01/28/2009
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?
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
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.
I have a 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT 4.7 4x4. My heater was blowing hot and it was never overheating. Then it started blowing cold so I did some research. It said it could be a thermostat stuck open so I bought a new thermostat and coolant and fixed it. Now it's still blowing cold and overheating. What is the problem?
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.
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?
By D (Guest Post)01/28/2008
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.
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
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.
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.