fearful dog

Bringing Home A Fearful Dog

fearful dog

What you need to know about caring for your fearful dog?

  • Fearful dogs are a huge escape risk and if they escape they can be really hard to catch. Make sure you have current tags and microchip information on your dog at all times.
  • You will also want to make sure your fence is free of holes and possibly add a baby gate to the front door if you don’t have a backup fence.
  • Your fearful dog will need to have a calm environment to decompress from shelter life. For some dogs this could be a few days for others; especially dogs coming from puppy mills or hoarding situations, this could be months.
  • You should set up safe places around the house where your dog can escape from kids in the home or guests. These should be treated as no entry areas for children. Examples of these could be mudrooms, bathrooms, a dog bed in the corner or under a table.
  • Make notes as you discover things that trigger your dog’s fear. Keep a written list.

If you know your dog struggles with fear it is important to understand that you should have a physical and behavioral evaluation done on your dog. You may want to ask your vet about prescription anti-anxiety meds to help your dog cope with daily life.

Rules for living with an extremely fearful dog:

  • Your dog should have a routine; small changes can cause your new dog stress.
  • Long walks same time every day, guided away from stress producing stimuli. Avoid places like playgrounds, groups of people and busy streets. You may choose odd hours to walk if you live in a busy city. If your dog is too scared to go on walks relaxation time in a fenced yard is another option.
  • Continue to make notes about your dog’s progress and setbacks.
  • Plan on doing a behavior assessment with a trainer about every 6 months to make sure you are on the right track.
  • One handler, sorry I would love to say this isn’t true and encourage everyone to be on board, but that isn’t what is best for your dog. Fearful dogs NEED to bond with a person, and being the center of attention may set this back. Bonding helps combat the stress hormones.
  • Time is key, it is better to take too much time than not enough. The biggest mistake you can make is to push to fast or force your dog.
  • Provide your dog with escape routes such as dog doors to a secure yard or garage for times of stress. Since successful fear aggression will become a self-reinforcing behavior. Dogs with escape routes typically try escaping first.
  • Always remember that no dog can learn while his brain is flooded with stress hormones. Stress hormones cause “brain freeze”.

Helping your fearful dog heal

Fear can be managed and healed, but not trained away. There are skills that you can use to help your dog when scared, but fear will continue to lurk deep inside your dog’s amygdala. Your job is to help your dog recover from fearful events quicker and experience fearful events less frequently.

Work to build your dog’s self-confidence through positive training and gentle encouragement. When it is time to start trying to teach obedience start with come, touch and eye contact these can all be useful skills for a fearful dog to learn.

Be your fearful dog’s advocate. If you feel your trainer, vet, friend or spouse is being to forceful have the courage to care and be your dog’s advocate.

Another dog

Fearful dogs often bond quicker to another dog and adding another dog to the home may help your dog with the process. Be picky if you choose to go this route. You want to make sure that the dog you choose is gentle, non-reactive, confident and friendly. It should also be a balance of good with your dog and respectful of your dogs space. Set up several meet and greets before firmly deciding on a dog.

Puppy Biting Solutions

If shortly after bringing your new puppy home it feels like there’s no safe place to hide your hands and feet from sharp puppy teeth you are not alone.

Yes, puppies are attracted to feet because they are at their level and feet move so they have to be caught. 🙂

I hope this will help you teach your puppy how to be gentle with his teeth and stop the biting.

Here are some stuff you’ll need to pick up from the store to make the process go a little smoother:

  • At least two puppy kongs
  • Peanut butter or if there are allergies try honey
  • A toy on a string such as a rope toy, or squeaky toy tied to a long rope. (This is a special training toy so don’t leave it out) only use it when it is time to train.

Examples of toys on strings

Before we can teach our puppies not to bite we need to teach them that human skin is very fragile. This works towards teaching bite inhibition.

Why shouldn’t we just skip to training our puppy not to bite?

Well, as tempting as that is bite inhibition is very important for puppies to learn.

At some point in your dog’s life time he may feel uncomfortable or painful.  Bite inhibition has to be taught so that in cases such as a vet examination when a dog may feel the need to bite they understand how hard they can bite without actually hurting somebody. This could be the difference between a vet tech receiving stitches or just a wet arm.

Training Step 1

Teaching your puppy to be gentle.

1.Grab your supplies for this you’re going to need to have either peanut butter or honey.

2.Put a little bit of honey or peanut butter on the back of your hand.

3. Then sit on your puppies level which could be on the ground or if you allow your puppy on the couch on the couch.

4. Show your puppy the tasty treat on the back of your hand. As your puppy starts to lick the back of your hand repeat gentle over and over as your puppy licks.

If at any point in time you feel your puppy’s teeth.

Say “YIKE” as high pitched as you can.

“Yike” is not a cue word, because it doesn’t tell your puppy what to do. “Yike” is also not a replacement for the word no.

We are using “Yike” simply to distract your puppy for a millisecond. Once your puppy moves away from your hand with his mouth stand up and wash your hands.

This ends the session.

Doing this will teach your puppy that if he’s rough he misses out on a reward.

Do this 1-2 times a day.

When puppies are together with their littermates they learn the same way. When puppies are playing and one gets too rough the puppy getting bitten will yelp. Then no longer want to play with the rough sibling…. at least for a few minutes.

Training Step 2

Stopping biting in the act when biting feet or kids.

If you drop a treat can you have your puppy “leave it” on request?

Teaching leave it is really easy and will go a long way in curbing puppy biting.

If you still need to teach a good “Leave it” then click here and teach your puppy “leave it” first.

The next time your puppy gets nippy when your walking try this:

1. Freeze and stop walking.   Movement excites puppies and can be very rewarding so if you continue walking while your puppy attacks your feet you ARE rewarding the behavior.

2. Stay frozen and say “Leave it” and the second your puppy complies reward your puppy by allowing him to chase his toy on a string… a much more appropriate outlet for chase. Then ask for a sit and continue this play session for at least five minutes.

3. Then after a fun session of chase the actual toy provide your puppy with a stuffed and frozen kong. This will help bring your puppy back down to a calmer state of mind.

Training Step 3

Stopping biting during down time.

The next time you’re relaxing trying to watching television and your puppy tries to chew on you try this exercise:

1. Freeze with your arms crossed and no excessive movement. The more you move the more you are rewarding the puppy for nipping.

2. Say “leave it” in a calm clear tone. The second your puppy complies reward your puppy with a fun chase session with his toy on a string. After a good 1-2 minute chase session encourage your puppy to chew on stuffed and frozen kong toy.

When you know you plan on relaxing try to be proactive and exercise your puppy before sitting down to relax. Provide your puppy with a Kong stuffed with peanut butter and frozen or a puppy safe chew toy.

Training Step 3

Teach your puppy that biting loose friends.

Set up a training station somewhere like the living room floor.

Use a a tether attached to the leg of a coffee table. Put a dog bed and a kong within reach of your puppy and sit close. You can watch TV or play on your phone while you do this.

When your puppy starts nipping say “Yike” as high as you can and go sit on the couch. 5-10 minutes later comeback and repeat.

Still having trouble? You might have a management problem.

Here are some rules to follow that will make training your puppy not to bite go even more smoothly:

1. Don’t allow anyone in the home to use their hands as a toy for the puppy to chase or bite. Consistency is very important so your puppy has a clear understanding of what’s allowed.

2. Exercise your dog before you plan on sitting down to relax.

3. Keep a leash on the puppy if the puppy is nipping small kids so you can easily cut in if needed. Teach the kids to freeze or be a tree if the puppy jumps or nips. You can also play red light green light.

If your still having trouble try consulting with a professional trainer in your area.

Hyper Dogs

Let’s think about the dogs that we share our homes with.

Huskies are bred to pull a heavy load over rough terrain day in and day out. Boarder collies were bred to be physically and mentally active working along side their handlers day in and day out. The Cane Corso (KAH-neh-KOR-soh) was adapted as wild boar hunting, farming, livestock droving, and most famously guarding farmsteads. Beagles were bred to be enthusiastic and vocal rabbit hunters… so how do we meet the basic needs of our beloved canine counter parts?

It’s your job to provide your dog with his own little job, even if it is just doing tricks.

We must begin by recognizing that a yard… even a big one is not enough for even our lazier breeds such as pugs and bassets.

Yes, some dogs of even active breeds manage to acclimate to living the mundane resistance of being a house/yard dog… but for how long were we able to accept dogs being fed “kibble and bits” or “Ol’ Roy” as being good enough?

So, how do we ensure we are meeting our dogs needs?

*New Places, New Things– Your dog should get exposed to at least three new place, training exercises, or things every week. Things like climbing wood piles to earn a toy, going to agility classes, or going to a new lake or brewery keeps your dog mentally stimulated. Teach them a new trick or ask for a new behavior like climbing into a box.

Puppy Note: puppies should be exposed to at least 6 new things a week.

This will keep your dog socializing too!

*Mental Stimulation– Dogs should be provided with a minimum of 1 hour minutes of mental stimulation each and every day. This could include obedience training, trick training, hiding toys for your dog to find in the yard or kong toys. This should be a little longer for breeds like chihuahuas, border collies or shepherds.

Puppy note: Keep your training sessions short with puppies and remember you can do more frequent shorter sessions.

*Physical Exercise: This one varies more while some breeds like Dogue De Bordeauxs should have a minimum of an hour of physical enrichment every day such as two long walks or a short jog, other breeds like Boston Terriers or Labradors may need closer to three hours of very active physical exercise like swimming, running or agility. Dont let the idea of this must exercise overwhelm you. I did compile a list of ways that you can cheat on this if you don’t feel like it’s practical.Here is a link for ways to cheat if your too busy or not active enough to meet your dog’s needs:busy life & a board dog.

*Challenge Your Dog: Challenge your dog at least once a day. You can challenge your dog to swim out a little farther to get the ball, hid a toy in a hard spot, stay a little longer or climb a big rock or leave his favorite toy. Challenging your dog in this way builds a stronger bond and creates trust. It also helps your dog become confident and stay confident.

When dogs don’t have their basic needs met they begin to develop behavior issues. Most of the time when these behaviors are brought to my attention the behaviors are not surprising. Beagles barking and digging, Huskies climbing the fence and escaping and Border Collies herding the children around the yard it’s to be expected when their basic needs aren’t being satisfied. All too frequently very common behavior issues can often be solved by meeting your dog’s need.

Keep in mind that your dog is an individual. Senior Dogs may have special needs as do puppies. More so you can never physically tire out a border collie. However you can Tire them out mentally. Create your dogs stimulation plan by keeping your dog’s breed in mind. If you have a mix breed just use your best guess.

Be creative and use the world around you!