By Grace Park
Published: 05/06/2021, edited: 10/05/2022
Written By: Kinzie Keller, Wag!
When you think about bringing your new puppy home, there are some things that are and aren’t on the top of your list. Crate training, potty training and obedience training are usually the top 3 but what about desensitizing?
In 2018, my 5-month old standard poodle puppy met something that scared him enough that he began to bark and growl at it. It wasn’t scary, though. It was just a lawn decoration! While I know that, he did not. I was able to safely and slowly introduce him to this new thing and help him recover from this fear within about 45 minutes. After positively and patiently introducing him, he was now desensitized to this scary new thing. I’m experienced with dogs, but what if I hadn’t been?
Fears and phobias are nothing new for dogs. They are natural instincts that should help them survive. That lawn decoration my dog was afraid of may have been small but it was shaped like a bear. That fear could have protected him, if it had been real.
More often than not, these fears our pups have aren’t rational. That’s where we as Pet Parents come in. It is our job to work with them, to show them that what they may perceive as scary or a threat is, in fact, safe. Sadly, many Pet Parents do not realize the importance of this and make fears worse.
Certain things, like touch, are useful before introducing a dog to children. Children mishandling or riding on dogs often leads to bites. Educating children on how to interact with dogs is important but ensuring your dog can tolerate being pet the wrong way, having their legs touched, tail touched, ears tugged, etc, will create a sound dog. Desensitizing can help not only overcome fear but build confidence going forward.
As your dog grows, they will go through periodic stages of irrational fear (fear periods). They may have seen that figurine on your shelf since they came home but suddenly, it is terrifying. This stage is the most important time to build confidence, desensitize and help them overcome their fear.
Desensitizing can be done at any age. Rescues especially can benefit from this. Every dog deserves to be confident and fear free!
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