For Dogs, Fear Is the Enemy

What if you had to cross 8 lanes of highway traffic to get to the grocery store?

You'd tune in more to the traffic patterns, start worrying before you set out. Maybe you'd dream about it the night before. You'd take fewer trips, change the timing of your excursions. Maybe the sound of horns blaring would frighten you, or you'd become more anxious overall. Doesn't sound great, does it?

This kind of awareness, anxiety, and fear is much closer to our dogs' everyday experiences than we may think. Modern pet dogs are kept more safe, have cushy sofas, and delicious treats. But dog's DNA has not caught up with the modern world.

And that's a good thing - 75% of the world's dog population are free roaming and rely on those skills every day.

But that does leave our modern pet dogs with a bit of a mismatch-- survival traits that aren't needed, and people who don't understand why their dog is afraid of things in everyday life.

If we recognize our dogs' fears without judgment, we can help them overcome and deal with their fears in positive ways. Contrary to popular myths, dogs should not be made to "face their fears", "get over it", or "learn to deal." These ideas only make fear worse which is a heartbreaking disservice to our beloved companions.

The good news is we can help dogs with some common sense and simple learning techniques. We can change our dog's emotional responses to fear-inducing stimuli-- which can feel like magic but is grounded in decades of science.

In my view, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a previously fearful dog enjoy life with confidence.

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