Last Modified: 10/22/2011
Most people do not realize that fear is a common problem with dogs, especially a new dog, as he does not know what to expect from you. Fear in a dog is most often associated with anxiety and it can be hard for the pet owner to help his four-legged friend. Dogs can suffer from all types of fears including fear of noise, fear of being alone, separation anxiety and fear of certain objects such as a vacuum cleaner.
No matter what fear your dog has trouble with, you can rest assured that you can comfort him and help him get over his fear. The key to helping your pooch is knowing what causes his fear. This way you can help him work to get past his fear. No matter how fearful your pet is, you can help by using patience, love and understanding.
One thing you do not want to do is give too much attention to the dog as he will start to think that his fears are justified. Most dog owners want to reassure their pet that all is ok but they are really giving in to the fear, which will not help him at all. There are other ways to calm your dog when he is showing fear or anxiety. For instance, if he is afraid of thunderstorms, it is important for you to remain calm during a storm, showing your dog that there is nothing to fear. Your dog will look to you to see if there is a problem, so it is good to show him you are not afraid.
Reward your pet for being calm in the presence of what scares him so he knows that he is doing the right thing and that being calm is good for him. You can use treats for praise when he is good so he associates being rewarded with the thunderstorm rather than being coddled for the anxiety. Learn to ignore his behavior when he gets scared. This will show him that you will only pay attention to his positive behavior. This is called positive reinforcement.
If your dog fears being left alone and shows behavior such as whining or chewing up things while you are gone, you will need to work on the separation anxiety with him. Spend less time with him right before you leave. Many pet owners give the pet extra love when they are getting ready to leave and this can make your pet anxious as he knows that you will be leaving. You can also leave the television or radio on so that your pet doesn't feel so alone. He will hear the human voices and this can be very comforting. You can try doing short timeouts with the dog such as leaving him in one room for a period of time and praise him when you return for doing well. Lengthen the times you are gone and keep doing the positive reinforcement so that soon enough, you will be able to leave him without any hassle.
If you have a dog that has a problem with fear, you can help him overcome it in no time at all with the right behavior on your part. Always be consistent with your training and your pet will be free of fear before you know it.
Dr. Sofia Yin, DVM, MS, The Art and Science of Animal Behavior, http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/dog-bite-prevention-week-poster-on-the-body-language-of-fear-and-aggression
Dr. Clive Dalton's Animal Behavior and Welfare Series, http://knol.google.com/k/animal-behaviour-and-welfare-dogs#
Fears of People, Places and Noises, Animal Behavior Associates Inc. http://www.animalbehaviorassociates.com/dogs_fears.htm
Dog Problem Solutions http://www.dogproblemsolutions.com/what_dog_fear_aggression_and_how_deal.php
ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist http://www.aspcabehavior.org/articles/38/Fear-of-Children.aspx
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