Fearful Dogs 101 – Part 2
I read the following quote on a ‘support group’ for owners with fearful dogs. “Just keep in mind, just as in humans fear is difficult to overcome so the slower you move and the more positive each time is…the faster rehabilitation happens. It’s not about how fast it happens…its about how successful each attempt is”
Fearful dogs tend to be very wary of movements you make, sudden movements can give them a fright. Slow movements may seem a bit creepy to them which will make building trust a bit difficult. Your first step would be responding to the dog’s body language with appropriate, non-threatening body language. Then we want the dog to feel comfortable with our movements, our approach as well as extensions of us.
The dog needs to be provided with a target that represents safety (blanket/hounds sleeper/bed/crate). This space should be respected, it may take him a while to feel comfortable with someone being in his space. Avoid luring the dog towards you with a yummy treat, rather reward the dog for making eye contact with you, moving towards you, or for offering calming signals.
Keep in mind that when you change orientation (sitting, sitting on your haunches, standing), the dog might rush back to his safe spot, and you will have to repeat previous exercises to get him comfortable with approaching you being in another position.
Avoid trying to touch the dog at first, reaching out to touch him too soon can be a bit tedious for a fearful dog. If you do want to test how he would feel about being touched, offer the back of your hand, as this can be a lot less intimidating. He must have the option to move away, and don’t feel too disheartened if he does.
“A difficult dog is not trying to give you a hard time, he is having a hard time”
Please note that working with a reactive or aggressive fearful dog should not be attempted without the help of a qualified force-free behaviourist.
By Tersha, Trainer