Having a dog who is fearful can be heartbreaking and confusing. Here are 7 ways to help your dog deal with their fears.
1. Respect your dog's fear.
Dogs can become afraid of things we would never expect (trash carts in the street, the sound of a timer, inflatable yard ornaments, trucks driving by, and so many other things).
2. Understand what you're seeing.
The more you understand your dog's normal body language, the easier it will be to recognize when your dog is stressed. The book Doggie Language by Lili Chin is an amazing resource to help you tune into your dog's body language.
3. Help your dog feel safe.
Don't force them to "face their fears" or "get over it." Repeated exposure without intervention can make fear worse.
4. Let your dog vote with their feet.
If your dog wants to get more distance from something scary, let them! And remember, dogs have bad days just like us humans. Some days they may be less able to tolerate something scary.
5. Help your dog feel better about what scares them.
You CAN change your dog's emotions about scary things by gradually exposing them to tolerable versions of the scary thing, and pairing that with tasty food AFTER they notice it. This technique is called Desensitization and Counterconditioning.
6. Seek help from a professional trainer.
A trainer who uses positive methods can coach you through training and offer support and encouragement as you help your dog feel better.
7. Seek help from your dog's veterinarian.
If your dog is struggling with fear and anxiety, talk to your vet about medications that can help your dog feel better while learning to overcome their fears.