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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.
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March 11, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about dog that's afraid of TV. Pet owners sometimes have to work with a pet that suddenly exhibits fear of certain sights or sounds.

Sad looking dog wearing white, blue, and brown coat curled up on white chair with head down on TV remote.

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March 3, 20160 found this helpful

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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March 3, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about training a dog not to be afraid of stairs. Some dogs seem to have an inherent fear of going up and down stairs.

A white dog sitting and looking up at camera on circular beige carpeted steps.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

August 30, 20120 found this helpful

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.
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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.

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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?

By CB

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September 3, 20120 found this helpful
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Take him to the vet immediately. He's telling you something is very wrong.

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September 3, 20121 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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I have a Harrier dog that is totally spooked by most everything. A good friend suggested a Thunder coat. It was like magic, he has totally calmed down. The Thunder coat is totally refundable. Good luck.

Ricky K.

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By 0 found this helpful
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!

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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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May 4, 20120 found this helpful

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

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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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By 0 found this helpful
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?

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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.

Bob

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April 23, 2005

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

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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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April 24, 20050 found this helpful

You are an angel to Faith! Thank goodness you took her in and made her part of your life.

Everything you're doing sounds good. But take it a little slower. Instead of ten minutes at the park, try just driving near the park for a few days with Faith in the car. If she tolerates that, stop, open the car door, and pet her calmly while she looks around. Next time, take her out of the car for thirty seconds. Etc. Tiny steps.

As for school in August, it's a great idea, but only if you truly think she's ready. If she needs obedience and leash training, you can do it in your home. Get info from a trainer or a website, and have short training sessions. It sounds like walking on a leash will be one of the important lessons!

Socialization may have to come very, very slowly. She sounds like such a wonderful dog. But she has been traumatized. You seem to have a very good sense of what she needs, and I know you'll do a great job. Go by your own standards -- not what other people think, or what other dogs do.

Thank you again, and again, for rescuing this lady who needs you so desperately.

zballoongirl

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 24, 20050 found this helpful

We have both a Beagle and a Jack Russell. The Jack Russell has always gone after anything and everything, big or small. That is part of their nature. Mine is a very affectionate lap dog, but very hard to train to behave in public, too. I think he is just very smart and easily distracted. He gets very clingy at the slightest strange noise (cell phone beeping) and frantically tries to make me hold him. He needs a LOT of reassurance and I have had him for over 4 years -- he was dumped, too, and he wouldn't go two feet from me for months after I got him. He loves to run and play and has a lot of energy. He always runs on walks and always pulls on his leash. I have tried "don't pull", but he obeys selectively. He has a very one-track mind, but if I get his attention and he looks at me, he will listen. He is finally learning "no barking" when we encounter a neighbor. He actually has a very large vocabulary to the point that we have to spell things. The beagle is another story...slow, into food, obeys very well, very shy (hides behind me when we meet people), but took 1 1/2 years to learn to "sit". All this to say that your dog sounds normal for a dumped Jack Russell and it may take more than a few months for her to relax.

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April 24, 20050 found this helpful

hello
thank you to all of you for your suggestions. They have been wonderful.we have gone to slow mode with Faith. I forgot to mention that she has brothers and sisters who love her dearly. They love to play with one another. I will post pictures later of her and her sibs.
take care

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 25, 20050 found this helpful

i have one just like faith. her name is ally. tho i got her at the spca. very shy but with time, persistence and patience she is much better. we have been to a behaviorist. when we first went to the park very frightened but now she loves to run and bark. just keep loving her.

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April 25, 20050 found this helpful

Not all dogs that have suffered extensive abuse can be re-socialized. Dogs have the mental accuity of a 2 year old child. They have no way of understanding who may or may not harm them. Since dogs have no sense of time, they are sometimes unable to "recover". With a dog that reacts to a situation with abject terror, it is more humane to remove them from the situation. A terrorized dog cannot be de-sensitized. Just keep them close and love them.

c.j.cox

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April 26, 20050 found this helpful

My Cookie Jack Russell Terrier Was left alone for
about 2WEEKS in an empty apt. She is SHY and is not typical CRAZY Jack RT and is loving. She does
not bark once when the doorbell rang on tv she barked shot up and cried. We did what you did at park lots of love, treats and talking mine is still
shy of the ducks .She follows me around room to room and when i go to restroom she lays outside door.She is a lap dog 15 ounds but curls up into ball on my hubby or me. Lil girl across street said 50cents to walk dog and she takes her daily now
Cookie loves her and goes to her house and plays with her reebone dog. Dec to now she rarely shakes. Just be strong when doggie shakes, reassure, but talk to them firm so they know its ok...This is bEST dog we ever had. They are quick learners. Ours sits in crate in car and during day kennel is on floor open and when she wants nap she pops in there
but she does love to snuggle on us in bed and who are we to say no to that? She is finally getting more secure just the other day I got up away from couch and she stayed on couch sleeping-A FIRST- while I refilled my water glass she has followed me to frig door and waited fom to refill and then back to couch. Time, love, paitence which seems you have will make the difference.

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 26, 20050 found this helpful

You are a special person to persist with a dog that has so many issues. If she is happiest at home and your church, then only take her to those places. Give her lots of time (maybe years) then when she is able, gradually try one new environment at a time. The reason I say this is that you don't want her to become a liability to you (ie - fear biting). It is important to consider others as well as Faith. The most dangerous dog is a scared dog!

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 27, 20050 found this helpful

I'll bet that Dog School will help.....and just some time to adjust. I adopted a 5 yr old longhaired dachshund with seizure disorder last December and just wanted to say what a nice person you are to take this dog with problems into your home. I think everyone should consider this method of getting a new pet. Visit http://www.drna.org if you're interested in a doxie. Everyone was so great there!

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 21, 20070 found this helpful

hi we just got a mini collie through someone that just didnt want him he is only a few months old well close to a yr he is very shy when i walk him if he sees someone he will try and hide from them or another dog he will also hide he follows me through the house sleeps with me wont let me out of his sight how do i get him over this??thank you for any advice you could give

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By 0 found this helpful
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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September 16, 20140 found this helpful

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

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By 0 found this helpful
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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By 0 found this helpful
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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By 0 found this helpful
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, 20150 found this helpful

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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November 29, 20140 found this helpful

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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November 20, 20140 found this helpful

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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January 20, 20140 found this helpful

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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March 4, 20140 found this helpful

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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By 0 found this helpful
July 10, 2010

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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