By: Joel Allen
Recently, I dusted off an old dog toy made of red hard plastic and shaped like an egg. It is approximately a little over a foot long and half as wide and made by Kong. I ordered it from Chewy.com. Anyway, last week I found that after I was teaching my Danes it was a toy and kicking it around with them, Houston, my one year old, saw it sitting innocently on the dining room floor and remembered it was not the usual item found in that area. Well, it seemed to bother him to the point that he was growling at this toy. So, the prankster in me wanted to see what he would do if I pushed it his way.
Now keep in mind this thing is oval shaped; therefore, it will roll around and change direction very quickly. The end result was the toy flipped this way and that, and I witnessed Houston jumping over the recliner and running for the hills, LOL. That is fear, though, and to help any of my dogs with fear, I usually make them face their fears. In saying that, I did have Houston come back and showed him that the “evil” toy was not going to get him. He smelled it and watched it closely; and then he decided he did not want anything to do with it. But, I slowly worked with him and helped him with his courage, poor baby!
Fear is a bad habit that can lead to many problems. It is a learned behavior that can lead to ruining a good dog in so many ways. I have seen aggression be the main problem resulting from fear. Some dogs become so fearful that they back up in a corner or seek an area where they feel safe. If your dog goes under a table or to their crate, do not pursue them. Dog bites have happened this way. Instead, talk to your dog and coax them into coming to where they can see there is nothing to fear. A dog can pick up on your impatience too, either by your voice or mannerisms; so be sure to think and act patiently with your dog.
So ask yourself, what scares your dog? They can be helped just by doing what I suggested in this article — have them face their fears. This might take some thinking on your part, but a plan of action can be quite simple. Look at what is causing their fear; and if it is as simple as an item like Houston was dealing with, show them it is not going to get them. Be patient and touch the item in front of your dog. If walking toward them causes them to back away, stop and work with them at that point by showing them they have nothing to fear.
I can imagine Halloween is tough on some dogs because of all those masks out there. In some cases, the dogs become fearful and get very reactive. My Zoey had this problem; and as a service dog, I must ensure she does not react. Back when she did have this issue, someone decided to walk through Walmart wearing a boogie man mask. Zoey was working and had her vest on. She quickly went from working to becoming a dog and almost made the young man have an accident on himself, as I was getting her back under control and telling the young man that he was not being smart doing that. LOL! I got her over the mask issue by taking her to the mask display, pulling one down, and showing her that it was nothing to fear. She smelled it and looked it over. After that, no more problems.
See what I mean about thinking out how to help your dog with their fear? Address the issue with them in a positive way and the problem will, in most cases, go away. Now, if the problem persists with the fear of whatever it may be, professional training may have to be your next step. Keep in mind that if they have been conditioned in an extreme way, that fear may never fully go away.
One last parting issue — many dogs are terrified of loud noises, such as fireworks and thunderstorms. When dealing with a dog about these issues, give them a quiet, safe environment in the home. Usually a room in the center of the house with a TV or radio might help. Even having your presence there will help them in most cases. One trick I have seen work with dogs and their terror of thunderstorms is a used dryer sheet. Rub them all over, and it may calm them down. All I can think is that it takes the static energy out of their coat. Well, folks until next month, be safe.
By: Joel Allen