How to Deal with Your Dog’s Anxiety and Fear

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How to Deal with Your Dog’s Anxiety and Fear

I, first, wanted to write an article on how to avoid a fearful or anxious dog.

After all, avoiding it completely is a lot easier for you and for the mental stability of your dog.

I was going to combine the articles, but sometimes a long article can be a little overwhelming.

So if you haven’t read part one, I suggest you read the article on how to avoid dog anxiety and fear first.

It is important to realize why our society is seeing more dogs with these issues and how easy it is to give your dog the social skills to lead a normal life.

However, sometimes it is too late.

People have waited too long to socialize their own dog.

Or people adopt a dog with a fear or anxiety issue.

And, occasionally, there are dogs that are inherently born with fear and anxiety issues.

It is crucial to know how to deal and help a dog like this without making it worse.

How to Deal with Your Dog’s Anxiety and Fear

1. Do Not Ignore It

So many people think that ignoring the issue will help the dog.

My dog is terrified of “X” so I will avoid it completely.

The truth is that this doesn’t help anyone.

This would never be the advice a therapist would give to a human.

“Oh you’re afraid of spiders…. You should avoid those completely.  Problem solved, that’ll be $500.”

Over coming fears, phobias, and anxieties just doesn’t work that way.

If you think you can avoid spiders for the rest of your life, please message me and let me in on your secret.   I don’t like spiders either… but I realize I will be faced with them throughout my lifetime.  Actually I saw a black widow crawling across my dog’s bed the other day!

I totally feel sorry for the dogs that people just “lock up” for fear that they might get scared about something.

I’ve had some anxiety issues in the past, and I can’t imagine just becoming agoraphobic (never going out side of the house again) and thinking that would solve my problems.

I am pretty sure that would add to my anxiety and just be a terribly sad life to live.

Even with anxiety, I wanted to live a normal life, go outside and be happy.

In some respects, I am glad I had panic attacks after a traumatic experience because it helped me to empathize with others, including our dogs.

2. Fears and Anxiety Must Be Tackled Head On

Fears and anxiety must be tackled head on if you want to make a difference.

That doesn’t mean you “flood” the dog.

Flooding means you expose the dog to an extreme amount of their fear, hoping that they will change their mind.

In terms of spiders, it would be like covering yourself with hundreds of spiders, hoping that this would desensitize you.

This tactic, often makes fears worse.

After all, who wants to be covered in spiders?

Do You Want To Tackle Your Dog’s Fears Head On?

Check out our 5 Step Formula that helps FINALLY Fixing Your Dog’s Fears, Anxieties & Poor Self Confidence.

Click here to learn this ‘Becoming Fear Free’ training process

3. Avoid “Flooding”

Instead of flooding your dog with his fear, you add it at a low level and add pleasant things with it.

I once had a dog in training to be a Service Dog.

He had the ability to sense seizures, but he was also extremely over sensitive to a lot of things in his environment, loud noises being one of them.

He hated the clicker, he hated plastic bags, and he hated traffic noises.

He did, however, enjoy eating popcorn.

However, he hated the sound of the popcorn being popped.

I didn’t lock him in the kitchen and force him to get over it.

But I would feed him dinner at the other end of the house while I popped pop corn.

Slowly, I would move his meal closer to the popping corn.

Of course, the smell of the popping corn and the treats after his meal was eventually associated with the sound.

I must admit, it took a long time, he had some pretty severe phobias (and was never really able to be a service dog because of it) but eventually he liked the sound of popcorn.

He also acclimated to the clicker. And for a great video series that shows you how to do this, click here.

I think all dogs should be acclimated to the sound of a clicker because it is such a small and benign sound in the grand scheme of things.

So many people want to avoid a clicker, when the truth is it will be kinder to slowly acclimate the dog to the sound rather than ignoring it.

After all, sounds of jack hammers, trucks backing up, trucks backfiring, sirens, and the normal sounds of life is so much more overwhelming than the sound of a clicker.

4. A clicker is actually a great place to start.

Pet Owner Training Dog Using Clicker I can wrap it in a cloth, put it in my pocket and simply click it all of the time and toss treats to desensitize my dog.

Certainly, I am not going to sneak it right under his ear and click like mad; but I can click while he is napping in another room and begin tossing him boiled chicken breast or some liver and pretty soon he will be happy to race into the room where the click is happening to get his reward.

It may not be that day, or that week but most dogs are very resilient and acclimate faster than most humans.

But it is important to make this fun and let the dog work at his pace.

Your therapist may want you to overcome your fear in a month or two; but it may take you 6 months to be comfortable around your fear.

Time doesn’t matter as much as success matters.

After all, does it matter to you 3 years from now that it took you 6 months instead of 1 month?  Probably not.

Overcoming the fear and GAINING CONFIDENCE is the key.

So instead of seeing it as “getting over something”, sometimes it is easier to see it as gaining the confidence needed to let go of old behaviors and fears.

5. Teaching your dog to relax on command.

And use relaxation techniques.

Giving your dog something else that he can accomplish (obedience) and be successful near or in the face of his fear.

These can all help your dog happily face the things that bother him.

Anxiety and Fear

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There are 3 Comments

  1. Reita Ash says:

    I have the most incredible female Dandi Dinmont Terrier I met and fell in love with at the animal shelter. She was only about 6 months old, scraggly little ragamuffin but something kept pulling me back to her. She didnt bark or whine. She just stood there wagging her whole butt like she knew that she was going to go home with me forever and teach me how to be her human. Since she is my first and only furry baby I deliberately waited until I retired to go find her. I knew I wanted a small female and other than that it was a blank canvas. I looked at a lot of dogs at shops and shelters but for some reason she was the one with her big eyes and cute lopsided grin with her head cocked to the side that got me. It has been a learning experience for the past 7 years now and we are still learning all the time. She is so wonderful and at times very independent and down right haughty. She is very quick to learn and loves to please and is extremely gentle. She loves performing, danciing and doing tricks and so quick to learn. As far as I know she has never been hit or yelled at and for the most part is always obedient…. if she feels like it… which is most of the time. At those OTHER times… when she is proving that she really is the queen… she completely ignores me when I call her and she refuses to eat unless it is what she wants at the time, if and when she feels like it. My bad. I used to bake chickens for her and cook her meals trying to give her all of the healthy foods. We have kind of gotten over that a little now and she is finally eating DOG food…IF it has a little sprinkle of grated cheese or crushed up puppy cookie sprinkled on top. Just recently we moved to the deal where if she does not eat her food she does not get her after dinner cookie. Maggie is all about the treats so she is getting that down pretty fast. At night she gets a dehydrated chicken strip for a nite time treat and another one when she gets up. Not only does she GET her treats, she will demand them and not stop wrestling me for them until I give in. She is only about 24 pounds so i can out do her but it is so funny that I always give in to her. It is our game we play at bedtime and wake up time. She gets her face and personal parts bathed every night before bed as she sleeps with me and I am partial to white bedding. I can do anything in the world to her and she just lets me but when she does her little ignoring me thing I just want to choke her… how do I get her to come to me EVERY time I call her? If she is napping, she just looks around and puts her head back down and ignores me and sometimes she won’t even look around. I feel terrible to complain about such a perfect little girl but she could be a little more obedient. She answers the door and insists on being acknowledged by everyone who enters and gives them a few licks and then she is done with them. I don’t want her to do those few licks on our guests and I just abhor being licked so she knows to only give me the nite-nite moochie and thank you for the cookie moochie. I just say no more licking and she stops. I was so happy to see this article on licking being genetic in dogs so now I can be a lot more patient in dealing with it. Thank you Min. I just love all of your articles and Maggie and I have learned so much from you and Chet over the years. Our Vet even reads your articles.

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  2. Great tips !! This is something people should def not ignore or think of it as “common”

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  3. Anna Sakila says:

    Great info! My dog seems to be fear of firecrackers or fireworks. If he hears firecrackers, he starts getting very anxious and pacing around panting very hard and looking for a place to hide. What I have to do now is close all the windows, turn some music on very loud and we both sit in the bathroom until the firecrackers end. But he is still very upset for a long time after they are over.

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