Instilling Inaction in Fearful Dog Parents

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“She just needs more exercise…”
“She needs a backyard to run around in…”
“She’s still a puppy…”
“She’ll outgrow it…”
“She’ll be fine…”

These are some of the many excuses people will use to deny that their dog has a problem. In many cases these excuses are given to the parent of the dog to reassure them that “everything will be fine”. Most of the time these excuses cause more harm than help. Instead of encouraging action to help with training, they instill inaction.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these excuses:

“She just needs more exercise or a big backyard to run around in.”
This excuse is used quite frequently, especially by a certain tv trainer. Of course exercise helps. It has definitely helped Oreo calm down more. A hyper, agitated dog with little exercise will have some behavior problems. As many of you know, I have mixed feelings about the expression, “A tired dog is a good dog.” Each dog has a different personality and Oreo happens to have the grouchy personality if she is really tired. After spending a fun day running around, playing, and excercising…she can’t take it. She is very tired, but also a super grumpus. We noticed that since she was a puppy-don’t bother her when she sleeps and if she is VERY tired just ignore her completely. Exercise is essential to dogs, but it won’t solve all problems, especially ones where fear is the main concern.

If your child is afraid of monsters…just have them run around outside a while and when they go to bed the fear will be gone! That’s what it’s like. If you say your dog is afraid of people, does that mean if you get them very tired when they see a person they won’t be scared anymore?

If you are deathly afraid of spiders and I tell you to run around the block a few times until you are tired…will you be afraid when you get in the house and see a giant black spider on your wall? Of course you will. Exercise may help a person or dog forget their fears while they are exercising but definitely will not make them forget them.

“She’ll outgrow it…she’s still a puppy.”
One of the various excuses I’ve heard from my friends and family is that she’ll just outgrow the fear-that she’s still a puppy. At a young age you can tell if a dog is fearful. Being fearful could be from genetics, illness, or an upsetting event (especially during fear periods). You can tell when a puppy is fearful when it shows you…tells you. How does a dog tell you? Well, they shy away from you and other people’s hands. They may hide behind furniture or run when a person or dog is in sight. Perhaps they are afraid of only certain things like brushes, or maybe it’s more widespread like blowing flags, pens, unfamiliar people, dogs, and anything new. A dog’s fears may range from what some people consider “normal” (a bath), to fear of everything. When a dog shows fear early on in its’ life you must make the fearful thing a “good thing”. You can pair it with treats and make it a happy event. However, if you don’t make progress and you find your dog doing serious things like growling or snapping at you because of fear, then you need to find a professional trainer to get help. It’s not something a puppy will grow out of. Perhaps you can help them get over the fear, but the fear is not something that will go away if left unattended…it will only get worse.

Many times people use these excuses to try to make people feel better or make themselves feel better about their fearful dog and their behaviors. There is no excuse. If your dog is fearful take action. Find a positive trainer who is knowledgable and understands fearful dogs. Do not get a trainer who hits, yells, abuses, believes in “dominant” behavior or claims to take your dog for a weekend and they will be cured. Don’t just think “It’s okay…she’ll be fine” because she won’t. Put yourself in your dog’s shoes…filled with fear…and do something.

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