Activities For Frightened Dogs

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Introduction

It is unknown why some dogs exhibit shy behavior and others do not. Theories abound, but most trainers agree that it is ultimately a combination of things that make a dog fearful. Some dogs are born with a fearful nature and others have endured hardships early in life which have contributed to their timid nature. Experts often believe that the fearful characteristic in a canine is a survival mechanism. Perhaps it is a part of the fight or flight response that is believed to be a part of evolution. A dog must know when to fight or when to flee. In some dogs maybe those signals become mixed up and the dog is simply more fearful than others.

Name Game

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Any Day
Free
Easy
15 min
Items needed
Treats
Activity description
Fearful dogs often become anxious over unknown sounds. Even the tone of a human voice is enough to cause the dog to cower or try to hide. If a person speaks in an elevated tone, it is not uncommon for a fearful pooch to urinate. This can be extremely frustrating for the owner who only wants to talk to their beloved pet. However, with most behavioral problems, consistent exercises can and will overcome the fearful nature of the dog. Games such as the 'name game' are great activities to play with your pooch so that they start to associate the sound of a human's voice with a positive reward.
Step
1
Say your dog's name
Over time, all dogs become familiar with their names. With this exercise, you want your dog to start to associate the name with themselves. You will start to say the dog's name often in varying tones that are soothing and happy. Ultimately, your pooch needs to get used to the sound of their name and also the tone of your voice.
Step
2
Perception and reward
When your dog starts to perceive that you are saying their name, it is time to reward the behavior. Every time you say your dog's name and their head turns in your direction then simply say, "yes," and reward the canine with a yummy treat. Your dog will associate the sound of your voice, the sound of their name name, and the treat together. This is a form of positive reinforcement training
Step
3
Stranger introduction
Once your dog has a firm grasp of your voice saying the name and the fact that a yummy treat will follow, then it is time to introduce your pooch to a stranger's voice and actions. Have an unfamiliar family friend say your dog's name. When the pooch reacts to the sound of the stranger's voice, then have the stranger give a treat.
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Hand Targeting

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Any Day
Free
Easy
5 min
Items needed
Treats
Activity description
Many dogs who are fearful will cringe when a person waves their hands. Rapid movements and hand signals send the dog into a virtual state of panic. In extreme cases, this can lead to fear biting which is extremely dangerous. If your dog is naturally fearful and exhibits shyness when it comes to hands, you must work with your pup to overcome the obstacle. One of the best ways to assist your pooch in dealing with hands and contact is to undertake a fun exercise known as hand targeting. With hand targeting, your pet will start to see your hands as being positive and even pleasurable.
Step
1
Handing over the treat
Choose a treat that smells good and one that your dog likes. Ideally, you should use your pooch's favorite tidbit. If your buddy does not have a favorite treat food, try liver. Many people find success with boiled liver. Hold the treat out with your hand. When your dog's wet nose touches your hand, relinquish the yummy treat.
Step
2
Word commands
When your dog masters touching your hand to receive the treat, it it time to start using a command so the dog associates your hand and the treat to the command. A word like 'touch' or 'target' is ideal. Say the command every time your pooch touches your hand for the treat.
Step
3
Object association
Now, it is time to change the game a bit. This time, hold a toy out with your hand and say your command word. When the dog touches the toy you will provide the dog with a treat using your other hand. This teaches your canine to explore new things and not be fearful. Remember to speak with a soft, uplifting voice and smile as you present the command.
Step
4
Stranger association
Your dog must overcome their shyness with strangers so having a stranger (to them), such as a family friend, work with your canine can also teach positive association actions with not only you but also an unknown person.
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Tossing the Treat

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Any Day
Free
Easy
10 min
Items needed
treats
Activity description
Your fearful dog may be better with you, but the chances are good that without work, your pal will remain afraid of strangers. Working with your dog and a stranger might be the ideal solution to let your pooch know that other humans are fun and acceptable. Dogs who suffer from fear and trust issues often view strangers as a threat so this is a hurdle that will need to be overcome in order to have a well-rounded fur buddy. Tossing the treat is an exercise that teaches and builds trust in a stranger. As your dog starts to overcome their fear with one of your friends, then you can enlist the help of another friend to work with the dog too. Gradually your furry buddy will become more confident.
Step
1
Tossing the treat
Stand so you are facing your dog. Have your friend stand behind your dog. Toss the treat so it sails over your dog's head towards your friend. When the dog turns to see where the treat went, have your friend toss a treat to your dog.
Step
2
Toss the treat closer
Each time you toss the treat over your dog's head have it land closer to your friend so your dog has to keep moving closer to the stranger to pick up the treat that you tossed, while also receiving the treat that the stranger tosses.
Step
3
Take the treat
As your dog builds trust in the stranger he should eventually be able to take the treat directly from the hand of your associate. When your dog finally, readily, reaches out and takes the treat several times from the stranger then you know that your pooch has mastered their fear of the stranger. At this stage, you are one step closer to your dog overcoming their fear and being a more balanced companion.
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More Fun Ideas...

New Things

New things can be scary for your dog. You need to help your pooch overcome their fear by introducing new things on a daily basis. Pick four or five objects and set them around your dog. When your dog explores the new object give your pooch verbal encouragement and tasty treat rewards. Eventually, your companion will see new objects in a positive way. The object will warrant exploration and the dog will know that once the task is completed then a treat will be bestowed. In time, your canine might even become bold enough to seek out unknown objects in unfamiliar setting such as a park.

Walk and Watch

A park can be an overwhelming place for a fearful pooch. However, walking your dog in such a place and exposing your companion to a variety of people and animals is a useful aid in training. Take your pooch to the park and any time they become distracted with another dog or person, redirect their attention to you by using treats. This will reinforce a positive attitude in your dog so that fearful behavior will eventually be eliminated. Any time your dog sees something that distracts them, you will be able to redirect your canine's eyes to you so that they refocus to receive the treat.

Conclusion

Nervousness and fear in dogs occur because of a variety of factors such as breeding and early-life trauma. However, no matter how fearful the canine might appear, with time, love, and training the dog can overcome the behavior and permit the pup to morph into a well-balanced and perfectly adjusted canine. There is no doubt that dogs are highly trainable and can overcome a variety of difficulties when surrounded by a combination of love and patience. The above steps can be taken to actively make your dog feel comfortable and less afraid. Fearfulness is not cured overnight. It does take time but eventually, your dog can conquer the handicap.