Activities For Nervous Dogs

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Introduction

It may seem like a challenge to play with a nervous dog. You don't want to scare them but, at the same time, you want them to have fun and be active. The best way to go about setting up activities for a nervous dog is to go slow, plan things you know your pup will like and reward them when they engage with you rather than shy away. With those pointers in mind, here are a few activities your nervous pup will be sure to love!

Treat and Retreat

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
15 min
Items needed
Treats
Friends
Activity description

This game is perfect to help nervous dogs get accustomed to new people. You will be rewarding your dog for approaching a person that they may not know very well rather than running in the opposite direction. You can play this game every single day with new people or with the same participants, however, you will need a few friends or family member to help be the "new faces". As always with a nervous pup, go slow and let your dog lead the way as far as the pace of the game, You want them to get more comfortable but also do not want to push them too far before they are ready!

Step
1
Set up
Grab your dog's favorite treats and put them in a bowl or dish by the door. These will be the reward that the 'new people' give to your pup. Call a few friends or family members to come over to help you with this activity. One or two people will do to start!
Step
2
New people
Have the 'new person' that your dog is not familiar with knock on your door. Your dog's natural instinct may be to run away, which is okay. Answer the door and have your friend come in and immediately grab a dog treat from the bowl and call your pup. Be patient but persistent, and keep calling your pup until they finally come retrieve the treat.
Step
3
Repeat
After your dog gets their treat from the 'new person', praise them and let them retreat back to where they feel safe. Repeat this activity any time someone comes in the door. Eventually, your dog will run to greet their guests rather than shying away nervously!
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Treat Catch

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
30 min
Items needed
Treats
Activity description

Some dogs are so nervous that any object flying toward them or near them may be scary. For example, throwing a ball may start your dog on a nervous shaking fit. Even a treat being tossed in their direction could make your dog nervous. Whatever the reason behind this automatic reaction, it is an easy one to break. All you need to do is be patient and teach your dog that flying treats are, well, a treat! There is no need to be scared of a dog bone or a ball and both objects are meant to be fun, not make your dog nervous! Time for some training! 

Step
1
Safe place
Get a bunch of your dog's favorite treats together and let your pup know that you have them (try to get that shy pooch excited!). Go to an area of your house where your dog feels safe, near their bed or where they sleep is a great place to start.
Step
2
I have treats...
Begin by placing a treat on the ground for your pup to easily pick up. Do this again. Now, put a treat in your hand and have your dog retrieve the treat from there. Alternate by putting a treat on the ground and one in your hand until your dog is feeling relaxed and just craving more!
Step
3
Gentle toss
Rather than placing the treat on the ground, drop it to the ground for your dog. Do this a few times, then, toss it gently just to the ground, not at your dog. Toss it again, a little closer to your pup. Continue to do this gradual progression until you are able to toss your pup a treat without them getting nervous. Advance from treats to toys once your dog gets more comfortable with objects being tossed in their direction!
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Sing Along

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Any Day
Free
Easy
30 min
Items needed
Radio
Activity description

This is an activity you can do every day with your pup to help them be less anxious in day to day life. It is as easy as talking out loud and singing to yourself, all the while, soothing your nervous pooch. This activity is especially good if your dog is scared of new sounds or if the sound of people talking makes them run away. The idea is to get your pup accustomed to noise and different tones of voices. You should try to do this activity constantly while you are home and you will see that you can even help your pup relax when you are away. How, you may be wondering? Easy.

Step
1
Song choice
Begin by choosing a song that you know all the words to that you can easily sing to your dog. You want to aim for a slower, relaxing song rather than something fast paced or loud. Sing the song all day, whenever you are around your dog. If you are just walking around your house, keep singing, even if your dog isn't in the same room - they will hear you!
Step
2
Radio accompanyment
Add the radio to your signing. Turn the radio on or put on some softer songs and sing along with them. Now, your dog is getting use to two sounds, your voice and the radio as well. Try faster songs or a wider variety of tunes. Give your pup a treat occasionally while singing so they know not to be scared.
Step
3
Solo singing
Leave the radio on when you are out of the house. By now, your dog should enjoy the sound of the radio as it reminds them of you! Once your dog is use to your voice changing pitches and the sound of music, they will become less and less nervous around sounds that are unfamiliar. A relaxed pup is a happy pup!
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More Fun Ideas...

Treat Toys

Give your nervous dog something to do to get out some of their anxious energy. A treat puzzle is a great idea as it is not intimidating and will reward your dog for putting in effort to get a treat.

Cuddle Time

Sometimes, all a nervous dog needs is a good cuddle. Curl up beside your dog in a soft blanket and just give them lots of attention and love. Nothing is more relaxing than this!

Conclusion

All dogs deserve to have fun and even the most nervous ones will thrive when set up with the right activities to play. Learn what makes your dog nervous and work on an activity that will calm these nerves. Your dog doesn't like to feel nervous so it is your job to help them! Start slow with any activity you do and soon your dog will be thriving and running toward the thing that used to make them nervous.