Training a Dog to Not Be Afraid?

May 28, 2018

I adopted my dog 7 months ago and he bonded with me almost immediately. He became my shadow and would follow me everywhere and cling to me. When I leave he sits on top of the couch until I get home. He is very wary of strangers and still scared of people he's met multiple times. He runs away when people try to pet him and is very cautious when taking treats. He won't take his eyes off the person and slowly grabs the treat and runs away to eat it. On walks, if he sees another dog close by he will often try and run away. Even if a leaf or bird fly by he gets spooked. He's been getting better since I've gotten him, but I just want him to be happy and not so scared all the time. Any tips on how to get my dog to stop shaking in the presence of people and dogs? :(



May 28, 20180 found this helpful
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Socialize is an individual process and requires time and patience and sometimes changing expectations.

A shy dog may never be the life of the party, but if he is healthy and not aggressive, then you may need to accept his quirks.

That said, ask your vet a recommendation for a one on one trainer. If you are near Pittsburgh, there are 2 that are amazing ones.

The one we chose for Clarence came to the house. She showed us how our behavior affected his and taught us reward based techniques to work on his skills.

He will never be the life of the party, but he is still an amazing boy who loves his people...just not most other people. Which we are fine with since he is happy and healthy.

Wishing you and your pup much happiness!!

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May 30, 20180 found this helpful
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The picture with your question looks like a rat terrier. If you dog is indeed a rat terrier the behavior you describe is common in this breed, in my opinion. They are very sensitive and wary of strangers. They are also very devoted to their owners. He probably never will be the life of the party, but he will be there to protect you from the boogy man.

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May 30, 20180 found this helpful
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insecure dogs can go two ways:
1) scary and aggressive (prone to attacking)
2) shy, retiring, and seemingly traumatized (apparently yours)

if I had to choose I'd choose a shy dog over an aggressive dog any day, but it is still a pity to have an insecure dog

I would just always provide firm but loving discipline, and make sure he gets a lot of exercise. In particular, especially if he's NOT aggressive, I would start by taking him on walks outside, then buiding up to going to a dog park (especially maybe the small dogs section only at first)

once he gets better at socialising with dogs it should make it easier to socialise with people

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21 More Questions

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December 9, 2015

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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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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So I adopted a 2 month old Pit Bull puppy about 6 months ago. And when I got him he seemed to be fine with the other puppies in the shelter. When I took him home it took around 2 days for him to get comfortable with me. Because I had to wait until all of his vaccinations had been finished he was staying at home and in the back yard for about a month.

And after he got all three shots I tried to walk him on a leash out of the house, but he just never would go an inch away from the door. I took him back inside, but I tired every couple of hours again and again. Finally he went out and actually goes on leash very good. I gave him treats every hundred meters. So everything was good.

After a couple weeks I took him to the dog park and he was scared of every dog that came near him. I tried to tell him it was okay and I pet the other dogs and tried to tell him it was fine. I tried like this again and again and he finally gets along with dogs that are good to him. But if he finds dogs that are not good to him he just runs back to me or lays down to let them bite him. So I don't really let him go near aggressive dogs now only with the good dogs. And they play really nice.

I took him for a car ride, but he was also scared of car rides. He just never lifted up his head and didn't even move anywhere. He was just frozen, very tense and very nervous. He didn't even look at me even if I called his name. It felt like things were just getting better, but suddenly they are getting really worse. I felt like I just finished one problem and another came up right after.

And now he is almost 8 month old. He is okay with a leash walk, but only around the small streets. He is a bit okay with a car ride too, but when I accelerate the car he will still lay down on the seat and never lift up his head. When I stop at the red light he will look up through the window. Just yesterday I took him downtown. We live a bit far from downtown so he never went there before.

After he got out of car he was doing his things again. He was scared of every single thing around him. He didn't even want to walk. He just pulled me back and wanted to try to find a hole or place under cover and just stay there. So I ignored his fear and took him the way he wanted to go. We were almost to place I wanted to go, but he didn't even go an inch. He just kept pulling me back. There was a bunch of people waiting to get into the restaurant so I thought he was afraid of them as well. So I took him to the back alley and went that way to go around them.

Every time I took him to try new things that's what he was showing me. But I didn't give up. And I know he loves me and I love him too. I think I need some help. I did everything I could to change him. I can't say it didn't help. It does, but every new thing giving me new problems.

He is eating really good. I'm giving him K9 Protein with chicken breast so he is really muscular, but he is just scared of everything and people laughed at me and him on the streets every time he didn't want it to go. He has bad dreams every day when he is sleeping so I slowly wake him up and pet him a bit and then he will sleep alright for a while. Now it's been 6 months and every night I hear him barking or yawning or crying in his sleep. I would appreciate you guys' help.


May 4, 20181 found this helpful
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All dogs have a basic personality and way of seeing the world. This is a part of them and really doesnt change a lot. Your dog is not comfortable in new situations. You have done exactly what you should do to get him comfortable in a new situation. You have been loving and confident and patient while he gets over his concern. If you continue to work with him this will improve with time. One things you can do is dog agility training. Dogs love doing it and it is a real confidence builder for them. I think your dog is a very smart dog, and he is lucky to have an owner like you.

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May 5, 20181 found this helpful
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Definitely take him on a lot of walks, exercise can help with insecurities. Additionally there's an interesting technique of making sure his head is held up straight and his tail is in the air, even pushing it up if you have to. Just the change in physiology can make him more confident.

the thing to remember about this breed is it is a very smart dog and a very energetic dog, and if he is not physically and mentally challenged, he can become neurotic and then prone to aggression. So make sure tht he gets a good run in everyday and hopefully go to obedience school or learn tricks.

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May 4, 2012

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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Did the groomer clean the dogs anal glands? If not, then please take the dog to vet to see if that's the problem with the licking. If you live in a hot weather area she can also be having some hot spots and the vet can give her a shot to help with the itching. She can also be reacting to something on your carpeting.

She should be spayed asap. If she was crated by the breeders then try bringing a crate into the house (take off the door), try adding one of your shirts or a nightgown with your scent on it for her to sleep on.

Don't hold her, that is against her will and she might be scared of being abused. Be very careful about giving her supplements since you don't know if you might be causing damage to her liver or kidneys.

Most of all, be patient, don't force yourself on her. Be calm around her, keep kids away. Try Petsmart or Petco and ask them about their all natural tranquilizers.

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October 7, 2008

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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February 28, 2018

I have a Belgian Malanois-Whippet mix. Since I rescued him he is still afraid to let me help him. My dog is still uncertain of me. He looks afraid when I go to pet him sometimes. He is a character. He hates dog food and makes me give him my food or he pouts, literally. He dictates where we walk. I don't mind that though it's his walk.

But his frightened disposition when there's no threat is sad. And he wants to kill the mailman. He has been massed 3x for this same aggressive behavior only to certain aggressive type people. He bosses me by using his tail and stepping on my toes. Ugh. He is is close to 12.


February 28, 20180 found this helpful
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He has been abused for many years. It may be very hard for him to trust. When you try to pet him, he may think you are going to hit him. You might want to consider a professional trainer.

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February 28, 20180 found this helpful
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This is so sad. The poor dog was so abused by his previous owners he isn't really sure what to do or think right now. As for the mailman this one could be dangerous. If he sees a person in a uniform this could trigger his memories of his previous owner. You're going to have to be patient with him and just keep talking with him. It will be hard and at times you'll be frustrated, but you have to think about the dog and how badly he was treated before he came to live with you.

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I adopted a shy dog on August 7, 2004. Unlike most shy dogs, her shyness happened, I am assuming, from being dumped. She began showing up at the church where I worked during the day and night. She slept at the church every night for almost six weeks.

I began leaving her food and water on a nightly basis when it became obivous that she was injured. Whenever anyone tried to approach her, she took off like a bullet. Her right rear hip was injured and she limped badly. Between our local shelter and the neighbors, she was "captured". She had surgery to replace her hip and had broken four of her vertebrate. Oh yes, whoever dumped her, cut her tags off.

She is very loving to those she knows. Once she leaves our home and yard she becomes very scared. She is going to "school" in August. She knows some commands in the home, but, not outside of the home. Through time and training, she no longer lunges at every car that passes her. She also is now pausing to "pea" when she is on her leash which by the way is at a mild run. Clickers scare her and she barks at anyone who walks by or near her.

I took her to park last week and just sat giving her treats. I reassured her constantly with love and treats. She was a shaking mess within ten minutes. I felt so bad for her that I brought her home. She clung to me all night and would not let me out of her sight.

Her name is Faith, she came to the church nightly. She sleeps with me nightly and curls up in my lap when I cross stitch. She is a Jack Russell Beagle mix and has a beautiful smile. Any suggestions you can give me would be helpful.

Betty from Ohio


April 24, 20050 found this helpful

Hi Betty,
It sounds like you have been doing the all right things. Thank you for taking such good care of Faith. It sounds like she had a rough start. It just takes time and lots of love which you have been giving her. Just keep trying to stretch her safety net by little bits and you should do fine.

Our dog Maggie was found tied to an animal shelter. She was super shy at first and over time has trusted us more and more. She is still very shy around strangers, but I don't really see that as a bad thing because she is plenty friendly with the family.

As with Maggie, it's so hard to know exactly what Faith went through before you got her. Her injuries may have been from abuse or possibly getting hit by a car. It just takes lots of time and understanding for her to trust that you won't abandon her or hurt her. Because she is making progress, just keep doing what you are doing.

Susan from ThriftyFun

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October 22, 2013

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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March 28, 2016

I adopted a Pom mix dog from a former co-worker about 7 months ago. My former co-worker doesn't run me as the abusive type, she speaks very gently and has a new born baby in her home, but I can't speak for everyone around her.

I adopted Olive to be my 2 year old Pom-Chi's companion since my husband and I weren't home for 5 hours a day. Daisy, my 2 year old dog, right off the bat loved Olive, but Olive from the moment she was put into my arms seemed a bit off. She's extremely timid and hard to potty train. She is very loving and all that, but if you raise your voice by laughing she pees on herself and hides. I need help since I am so in love with her I can't let her go because of this. I want to help her in any way I can. Please help!

Thank you and love always Olive's mom.

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February 24, 2016

I have a 6 month old Jack Russell who I bought from Gumtree 4 weeks ago. He is very nervous and growls at people when they come into my house. He is eventually coming around to me and my husband, but not my daughters and son. When they try to stroke him he wees a large amount and cowers on the floor or if we are sittting down he will jump onto our knee and not move.

I don't know if he has been abused or if he is just a nervous dog. Is there anywhere I can take him to get him some help or a link on the internet I could look at. Thank you.

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June 14, 2015

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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January 31, 2015

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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