As a dog parent, it can be sad to have a nervous or fearful dog. You want your dog to live happy, fun and free. You want to help so badly, but nothing seems to work. Some dogs get separation anxiety when you leave. Some are just nervous all the time. Even sadder is that most of the things you try actually make it worse. Here are some tips on how to help your fearful dog.
First off, don’t blame yourself. It’s easy to think that a fearful dog is reacting to some form of mistreatment. Or maybe you’re afraid you did something to your dog to cause the fear. If you are reading this article and are concerned about your dog’s well-being, you are likely a wonderful, kind and caring dog owner. You didn’t cause your dog’s fearfulness.
So what causes dogs to become fearful? Almost always, fearful dogs are lacking a strong pack leader. This is great news because this is a problem that can be easily fixed with some help.
What does a strong pack leader have to do with it? If you are not sending the message to your dog that you are the leader, then your dog thinks he or she needs to be the leader. Just like with people, not everyone is a natural leader. Some people just aren’t cut out for it. The same is true with dogs.
If your dog is not a leader and feels like she needs to take charge, she gets scared. The human world can be an overwhelming and scary place for a dog. Think of it like this: Imagine you are 4 years old and find yourself in a strange place with your younger sister. There is a strange noise and then a person coming towards you. Are you scared? Heck yes!
However if one of your parents were there with you then everything would be fine. That is because you would not be in charge! This is how it is for your dog when you make them the pack leader. They are terrified and just want to get home safe and alive.
That is how it is with fearful dogs. The dog is scared because the owner is giving them the message that they are the pack leader. Many dogs aren’t able to handle this pressure. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with these dogs, they just aren’t leaders.
Fearful dogs need their owner to lead. If you have a fearful dog, you need to be the leader of your pack. Sound like too much responsibility? Are you thinking “gosh, I’m not really a leader either.” No worries! You don’t need to be a great leader to be the leader of the pack for your dog.
How do you become the pack leader? Well, you don’t need to get down on all fours and bark. It’s not hard but it is something that is easier to watch and learn rather than just read about. There are some great videos sites now that show you exactly how to become the pack leader. Some are better than others. One of the best sites around is The Online Dog trainer. It has fantastic videos on establishing yourself as the pack leader and also shows you how to give confidence to fearful dogs.
If you want to know how to help in the short term, these are 4 quick fix tips to help you deal with your fearful dog:
Download our FREE printable cheat sheet that you can use to get your dog to come everytime.
1. Don’t push too fast. They can change but will struggle if you try to push it too fast
2. Let your dog calm down around new people. Wait until she is calm before you take her over to meet them
3. Ask people to ignore your dog when they first meet her. This will keep her from getting overwhelmed.
4. If she doesn’t come over then she is too scared and you must leave her alone.
These tips are great for dealing with your dog’s issue, but they don’t provide a long term fix. If you want to fix the problem, learn to be the pack leader.
Establishing yourself as the pack leader is the foundation to any success with fearful dogs. Until you recognize this and put it in place you will never be in a position to help your dog. If you want to get started with your dog, check out our totally free Everyday Dog Training PDF here.