It’s a devastating feeling for any dog owner when their dog is scared of them. When a dog is fearful, it’s challenging to handle, feed, groom, and train. When you adopt a frightened dog or if your dog has suddenly gotten afraid of you, there are methods to gain or regain the trust of your furry friend.
Common Reasons For A Dog To Be Afraid
- The owner has a history of using harmful punishment methods of training or is physically abusive
- Coming into a new home from a rescue or shelter usually makes a dog scared
- Previous pet owners yelled or were verbally abusive
- A previous owner was frustrated and hit the dog
- An owner may have accidentally stepped on the pup’s paw or tail
- The owner’s body language indicates they’re stressed or fearful
- The pup was previously around intimidating or aggressive dogs
Don’t Scare Your Dog Or Lose Trust
Here’s What Not To Do:
- Never use physical or negative punishment
- Don’t yell or use verbal intimidation
- Never force a fearful dog to follow commands
- Don’t get frustrated or impatient with a fearful dog
- When your dog retreats to their safe place, let them alone to relax
- Never withhold attention or love from a fearful dog
How To Tell Spot A Dog Exhibiting Fear Symptoms
You can tell what an animal is feeling through its body language. Here are the signs of anxiety in dogs to look for:
- Carefully tracking your movements
- Excessive yawning
- Flattened ears
- Leave the room when you enter
- Licking lips
- Persistent scratching
- Raised hair on the neck
- Submissive urinating
- Tail between legs
- Won’t accept treats
- Won’t make eye contact
An excellent suggestion is for dog owners to familiarize themselves with things that are most likely to cause fear in dogs. Every dog is different, but here are some of the most common canine phobias:
- Animals that may be aggressive
- Loud noises like thunder or fireworks
- Riding in the car
- Separation from their human companions
You want to gain the trust of a dog that’s new to your family or regain the confidence of your dog that’s suddenly fearful or feeling stress. It’s always useful to know the critical signs of stress in a dog.
Here’s How To Help A Fearful Dog, So He’s Happy And Confident
Classic Conditioning Training
The classical method of dog training dates back to Pavlov’s Dogs, an experiment in which a psychologist conditioned a group of dogs to salivate for their food by ringing a bell . Classical training is effective for dogs that are fearful since they associate one positive thing with another. An example is reaching for a leash that signals to the dog it’s time to go for a walk then offering a reward. Another example is if when you reach for the food bowl the dog understands something positive is to follow.
To help a dog over his fear of you whenever you walk near the dog and before he shows any fear, drop a favorite treat near him. The dog will soon learn to associate you with something positive. You have to learn what the dog’s fear threshold is so you can offer the treat before he shows any signs of fear. It’s important not to stop or look the dog in the eye as you pass by. Dogs see this as threatening behavior.
Follow A Reliable and Predictable Schedule
When a dog feels stressed, one of the best ways to alleviate fears is to follow a predictable and reliable schedule. When a dog has elevated stress levels it’s difficult to get it to trust you. When a dog has its own dog bed or dog crate, is fed the best dog food you can give, and has playtime at certain hours, he or she feels more comfortable around humans. When actions are repeated at regular times each day in a non-aggressive and calm manner the dog learns to trust the owner.
Get Out And Explore With Your Dog
Proper socialization is essential for any dog, especially one that’s scared. If you have a puppy go out for walks to different places each week so your dog gets accustomed to being around other animals and humans. If you’ve adopted an older dog that’s afraid of a leash, walking around your yard at first allows your dog to explore his surroundings. If you don’t have a fenced-in yard get your dog accustomed to a leash inside the house before you go on walks. When your dog shows interest in a tree or some object outside, go and explore it yourself. Allow your dog plenty of time to investigate new sights and scents. Try today’s best retractable dog leash for a more fun walk.
Let The Dog Be
When your dog is fearful, allowing him to have some time alone in his own space is one of the best ways to give the dog confidence. Sometimes humans can be intimidating to dogs without realizing it. Allowing a dog to have his space, a comfortable bed in a quiet place or a crate that he can retreat to can help. When a dog is scared it’s often best to let him come to you when he feels comfortable.
Make a Real Connection With Your Dog
The sad thing is that dogs that have been physically abused associate humans with being scary or bad. Most dogs love being petted, having a belly rub, or being scratched behind the ears. If your dog has previously been abused you may have to get creative to gain your pup’s trust. During training sessions, offer your dog a tasty treat when obeying commands. You may not be able to pet your pup right away but a lot of praise in a calm, reassuring voice goes a long way.
Incorporating clicker training into a session can work wonders. When your dog responds to the command use the clicker and offer a treat at the same time. Your dog will begin to associate the clicker with something positive. When your dog is afraid to come near you take a step away, wait for your pup to approach you and make the clicker sound and offer a treat at the same time.
Patience Is A Virtue
Humans and dogs take time to adjust to a new environment. Each dog learns at its own pace. It may take days, weeks, or months. The key to helping your furry friend to adjust is a consistent schedule. The time frame for a dog to adapt to a new home depends on the dog’s personality and the reason for their fear. Being patient and never forcing your dog to do anything during the training process can make adapting to a new environment more manageable. If no trick works, consider getting help from a professional dog trainer.
Plenty Of Playtimes
Throwing a dog toy or a ball to a dog that’s afraid could trigger the fear response. As an alternative, attach a piece of string or rope to a toy and drag it along the floor. Your dog will be curious and investigate. Moving the toy around allows the dog to pounce and play without feeling intimidated. Your dog will start to associate playtime with a positive experience.
Socialize Your Dog
Socialization is a vital part of training a dog not to be afraid. If you have another dog, spend time playing and socializing with the dogs. The dog that’s fearful will soon understand that you’re a human that can be trusted. If you don’t have another dog but your dog sees you interacting positively with other dogs on walks, he’ll begin to trust you. Learn how to socialize a dog properly to different sights, sounds, and other people too.
Use Targeted Training Efforts
Clicker training works well with many dogs. However, some dogs require more creative ways of training. When a dog is scared you have to experiment to see what training methods work most effectively. the most important thing is to always be relaxed, calm, and don’t punish your dog for not responding. When a fearful dog does something wrong the best thing to do is ignore the behavior. Animal behaviorists have found that positive reinforcement dog training for good behavior and ignoring incorrect or bad behavior is most effective with fearful dogs. A dog is somewhat like a child. The dog will seek you out when they want attention. Rewarding positive behavior encourages it and discourages negative behavior.
Work On Building Trust Each Day
Continue with feeding and walking your dog on a regular schedule. Engage in play and go for walks frequently. Only allow respectful adults and well-behaved children and other dogs to be around your dog. Never let anyone loud or aggressive whether adult or child, near your pup. When you’re introducing your dog to new family members or friends, make it clear that no one should approach the dog. Let the new person drop treats down for your dog if he approaches them and doesn’t make direct eye contact. New people should keep their hands down to their sides and allow the dog to sniff them.
1. How do I get my dog to stop being scared of me?
It takes time for a dog to gain trust. It takes a lot of patience, consistent training, keeping a consistent schedule so the dog knows you can be trusted, socialization, playtime, and a lot of love.
2. Why has my dog suddenly become scared of me?
Sometimes a dog will become fearful because of an owner’s body language. A human can be experiencing stress, fatigue, or may not feel well. Animals are perceptive and pick up on behavioral changes. It’s essential to be relaxed, calm, and loving around your dog so he’ll relax too.
3. How do you get a scared dog to trust you?
When a dog is afraid sometimes it’s best to let them calm down in their crate or have some alone time on their bed. To gain your dog’s trust, avoid direct eye contact, just glance at your pup. Be very gentle when petting your dog. If the dog backs off, offer a treat and let him come to you. The most important thing to remember is that dogs are like humans, all are different, and each responds in its own way.
Dogs may be fearful for different reasons including past abuse, lack of socialization, phobias, neglect, or emotional trauma. A loving, responsible dog owner understands that different methods or a combination of methods may be necessary to make a dog relaxed, comfortable around people, and be happy and confident. You may have to experiment to find out which methods work best to get your dog to trust you. A lot of love and patience are the keys to helping a dog get over being fearful.