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Hamilton Dog Training and Confidence Building Exercises for Fearful and Shy Dogs

February 18, 2019

Through genetics or environment, often a combination of both, some dogs can turn out fearful or shy. Learn how to apply positive, rewards-based Hamilton dog training techniques and other tips to help a fearful and shy dog build confidence.

Understanding the Fearful Dog

Fear-related behaviors have complex roots in fears, anxieties, and phobias. To help a fearful or timid dog, it is important for owners to understand these closely related, yet vastly different conditions:

  • Fear – involves the proximity or presence of the feared situation, person, or object
     

  • Anxiety – tension or distress caused by the anticipation of a real or imagined future threa

     

  • Phobias – extreme, chronic, and inappropriate anxiety and fear responses that are incredibly out of proportion to the nature/level of the threat.


Recognizing whether your dog is fearful, anxious, or phobic in a given situation is a big step in helping him overcome it. With patience, love, trust, and positive dog training techniques, fearful dogs can blossom into a much more confident version of themselves.

How to Help a Fearful or Shy Dog

We want the fearful dog to learn that the world is a fun, safe, and happy place. Therefore, never force your dog to bear more than he is able to. Avoid scolding him for fearful behaviors such as trying to leave, being reluctant to take treats, or not responding immediately to commands.
 

Most importantly, dog training for Leesburg, VA owners and surrounding areas goes much more smoothly when both the owner and the dog are enjoying themselves. Keep these tips in mind as you work with your companion.
 

  • Make him feel safe.

    Give your pooch a safe haven to retreat to, such as a covered crate or a quiet room. Avoid making loud noises near him and practice approaching him in a calm and relaxed manner.

    In addition, remove any perceived threats in the environment and take steps to limit his exposure to aversive individuals, items, and situations on a daily basis.

    The key to coaxing a timid or fearful dog out of his shell is to take it slow and make sure he feels safe enough to try new things and explore.
     

  • Practice counter-conditioning.

    Counter-conditioning involves helping your dog make positive associations with a scary stimulus. For instance, if your dog is afraid of vacuum cleaners, start making it a reliable predictor of something fun or yummy.

    Find his threshold distance (the distance within which he can tolerate the presence of the vacuum cleaner without being afraid), present the vacuum cleaner, and feed him nonstop with a high-value treat.

    Repeat this and increase the intensity of the stimulus (moving the vacuum closer, turning it on, etc.) until your dog finally sees the vacuum cleaner as a predictor of awesome, tasty things. This is what we call a conditioned emotional response.
     

  • Socialize your dog as early and as much as you can.

    Expose him to as many things as you can – people, situations, other dogs, items, and more. Just make sure that these are all positive exposures, and don’t ask your dog for too much too soon.
     

  • Train and play a lot.

    Dogs learn a lot of valuable life skills through games. This can help fearful dogs try out new, meaningful things without having to worry about things that make them scared or anxious.


    Here are some games you can use to build trust and boost your dog’s confidence:

Nose work games such as finding treats around the house

Free-shaping games like hiding treats in boxes and encouraging him to explore it

Targeting games such as asking him to touch your hand for a reward

Interactive games like fetch

Teaching him tricks like sit, stay, and down

 

Always reward and praise your dog for any effort to engage, and give him some extra pats and treats for a job well done!
 

As a trusted resource for Hamilton and Leesburg dog training, Hearts in Harmony invites you to considered available sessions for our Dog Training Services that may help your fearful or shy dog. For inquiries, please call Hearts and Harmony at 540-454-4098.

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