My Puppy Dog is Scared of Me
Dog anxiety can be a very tricky thing. Sometimes when I’m working with one of my dog behavior clients, they will note that a behavior came out of nowhere. This can certainly be the case, but with a lot of dog anxiety, the signs were there for a well-trained eye to detect. Don’t get me wrong, behavior can happy all at once. I’ll go over that too.
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Why is My Dog Scared of Me?
If you feel your puppy or dog is scared of you, please take a look at how you interact with your dog. Do you yell at your dog, raise your hand at them, or even swat them or hold their mouth closed? If so, I’d be afraid of you, too!
When training and interacting with your dog, it is vital to use force-free methods. In other words, no pain, scare tactics, choking, or any other physical compulsion methods. These “training methods” are not only unnecessary, but they also do more harm than good. Honestly, if you feel good about causing distress to your dog, you can click away from my blog.
If you are trying to be fun and engaging with your dog, what is your body language and what is his? Are you loud, move fast, rush toward him, or lean over in his space? Does he back away, avert his body, bark, or growl?
If you answered yes to any of the above, let’s take a look at those behaviors and gestures. In a dog’s world, straight-on approaches, moving quickly toward your dog, reaching over him, or taking his space (hugging) can be threatening. Sure, you may have had 15 dogs over your lifetime that did not worry about these things, but this dog is different. He is very aware of proper and improper dog-to-dog interaction. Yes, he’s going to look at your interactions as he would another canine.
Instead of moving toward him, move away from him and call his name. “Dexter.” As you turn the opposite direction, squat down, tap the outside of your shin with a treat in your hand. If he’s interested and comes in for the treat, gently let him take it out of your hand. If he’s comfortable, give him a little chest scratch. Think under parts vs. over parts. Under chin, chest, not top of the head, back.
If he’s unsure, drop the treat you had and walk away. Enough for him to feel comfortable to go eat. Then move on. Repeat this process, you calling his name, moving away, squatting down, tapping shin, dropping treat, moving away. Repeat.
If your puppy or dog just gets slightly nervous at your actions, slow things down. Work on moving away during interactions and allowing a nice bit of space between the two of you. Figure out what your dog’s comfort bubble is. How far away do you need to be for him to still be comfortable and relaxed? Keep this space through all of your interactions.
I work with a lot of fearful dogs—space is king. If you find yourself and your dog in a tight space and you need to walk through, tell him you’re going to toss a treat. Toss the treat over him in a way that he will go collect the treat, leaving the space open for you to pass through. Over time, with trust and trust games, your dog will slowly begin to feel more secure, and the distance needed will start to decrease.
My Dog is Scared of Everything
Most dogs with anxieties or fear tend to be afraid or nervous about more than one thing or situation. One of the key components when working with a fearful dog is to build up his general confidence. Teaching him tricks, games, and body awareness exercises are a great start.
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Natural calming aids will also likely play a role. Unfortunately, it’s not a broad stroke: take X for fearful dogs. It’s very specific to each dog’s needs, behavior, and what they are nervous about and how they respond to that anxiety. Do they run and hide, or do they explode into a panicked frenzy?
My Dog is Suddenly Scared of Me
Now, if your dog has always been a pretty confident, happy- go-lucky dog, and suddenly he is afraid of you, doing something specific like going down the stairs, going outside, etc., it’s a vet visit for sure! Pain and even canine dementia can show up as fearfulness. Honestly, I like all the dogs I work with to have a full physical exam from their veterinarian which includes a full CBC panel, thyroid test, urinalysis, and anything else the vet may suggest depending on the anxiety.
Please seek help from a qualified trainer. One who specializes in anxiety and positive methods. The longer a behavior goes on, the harder it is to change. Not to mention, who wants their dog to be afraid? Especially of their human family.
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