Fear & Anxiety

Help for dogs anxious or fearful dogs

Working with dogs who experience fear, anxiety, or other behavioral or physiological responses to things around them can be challenging in so many ways. Your dog needs to be able to trust that you and their environment are safe in order for them to learn the new skills you want to teach them. Trust often needs to be built intentionally and in small increments that move at the dog’s pace. To understand when to move forward in your training and trust-building plans and when to slow down requires learning to carefully read your dog’s body language so you can catch the early signs of stress and make adjustments to keep them feeling safe and successful.

On leash or with strangers: Fight, flight, or freeze reactions

Fear and anxiety in dogs presents as different behavior in different individuals and situations (much like it does in humans). A dog may start to show leash reactivity (barking, growling, or lunging) when walking past certain stimuli on leash, and that can be their way of removing the scary thing in the environment (another dog, person, bike, etc.) before it gets too close to them.

Other times, a dog may try to escape or run away from the scary thing they see. They may hide when a visitor comes into the house, or they may move themself to the furthest point they can on the leash. Sometimes, they may just freeze. Freezing is often mistaken for “good behavior” as it appears to many people that the dog is complying with requests because there is an absence of unwanted behavior. However, freezing is often a fear response.

Positive reinforcement training

Teaching fearful or anxious dogs new behaviors using positive reinforcement training techniques can help them learn that the world is safe and that their mistakes won’t hurt or scare them – they can simply try again until they get things right. They can learn behaviors such as relaxing on a mat or checking in or moving away from a trigger. You may also want to teach them simple safety cues or obedience training to help with household manners. Wherever your dog is at in their training, adding a positive reinforcement practice routine can boost their confidence while working toward your behavioral goals.

These kinds of behaviors are best addressed during private training. Read more about our private dog training lessons here. 

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