The Hidden K9 Managing Fear

What causes Fear in Dogs?

Genuine fear usually comes from a negative experience or trauma. Much like Separation Anxiety true Fear is quite rare in dogs but where it exists it can be tricky to diagnose and isolate from general anxiety.

Genuine fear usually is triggered by isolated things like the car but the dog has fairly balanced behaviour around other things like busses etc. If your dog is generally scared of everything it’s more likely to anxiety, many people say “Fear Based Anxiety” which kind of blended catch all term. To -give your dog the best shout at overcoming the fear we need to know if it’s actually fear or just general anxiety.

Try to closely observe the thinking levels of your dog whenever you are around things that create a response from them and establish wether the reactions build up over a few seconds or the they seem to be instant responses.

Working out wether you are dealing with true fear is a critical to designing a plan for your dog. The ways of helping them through these very different things are very different

How Can You Fix Fear?

If we decide we are dealing with fear we need to take a slightly slower approach and use passive desensitisation techniques to allow the brain to come to terms with the trigger. We cycle the brain up and down through the thinking and emotions to basically retire or change the perception the dog has around the trigger. Allowing the brain to reset inbetween exposures is the real key here. It’s always done at the dogs own pace, we cannot put our timelines or agendas in front of this process or it will fail.

Anxiety would lead us down a slightly different pathway. The only way anxiety about something can be cured is actually exposure to the thing that’s causing it. Many of my clients avoid other dogs because their dog has anxiety around other dogs.

My take on this is that long term you are doing more damage by reinforce with avoidance that the “thing” is acutaully something to scared of. We need to implement a well structured socialisation plan with the dog by giving leadership and not comforting, this is where most dog owners go wrong.

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