Help Your Anxious Or Fearful Dog Gain Confidence


There are many different personalities among humans. We are reticent and shy, outgoing and severe, sentimental and artistic. Although many of us are born with particular qualities or personality types, there are times when our experiences affect how we present ourselves to others.

Dogs behave similarly. They can be shy or outgoing, gregarious or restrained, or even fearful and frightened.

The stereotype often involves happy, good-natured dogs with wagging tails. But many shy and fearful dogs who need a bit more help may suffer significantly from this stereotype (especially around whatever frightens them). Unfamiliar dogs and strangers are frequently the source or trigger of nervous or fearful canine behaviour. However, the majority of dedicated dog owners can pull it off!

Why do some dogs seem anxious or fearful?

Everything feels frightened. A fearful dog may have been subjected to abuse or trauma when they were young. Still, fear usually results from a genetic predisposition or a lack of exposure to frightful things.

What do dogs exhibit in terms of fear or anxiety?

Fearful dogs avoid their anxieties just like people. If they are unable to leave the source that makes them afraid, they can pick one of the following:

  • Exhibit indications of sadness or disinterest
  • Wobble or cower
  • Yawn or pace
  • Lunge at humans or other dogs
  • Whimper, growl, or bark

If your dog displays any of these characteristics, don’t make them confront its fear. If your dog barks or growls at a new friend, don’t try to persuade it into being well-behaved for the sake of time. If you push your dog, they may snap or even bite to let you know that they don’t feel comfortable. As a result, give your dog’s companion some space.

Be the dog’s staunchest advocate! Watch out for any signs of fear or worry in their body language.

Will my dog get better?

It’s feasible! Most timid dogs gradually become less fearful with time, training, and trust. They won’t likely become outgoing if they are naturally worried or shy.

There is hope! You may manage their worries with time, patience, and practice. Expect no complete transformation, but treats and happy, positive interactions can help immensely.

How can I help my shy dog?

Dogs learn new things through associating. The ideal method for helping a shy or fearful dog gain confidence is to help them do something that frightens them on a low-intensity level. Pair this exposure with something enjoyable, like a tasty treat. When done correctly, this is known as “counter conditioning” and “desensitization” and increases people’s fear responses to the source of their anxiety.

Suggestions for interacting with people

Remember that you are your pet’s best advocate. It’s always acceptable to say no if a stranger approaches your dog and you don’t believe they’re ready to interact. You can put yourself between the other person and your dog to prevent a confrontation. This gives you the time to state your need for more significant space formally.

Here are a few other suggestions to help you manage your dog’s fear of people:

  • Give your dog time to become accustomed to people. Let people decide whether or not to approach your dog after warning them not to. When they adjust independently, dogs are more likely to approach people securely.
  • Avoid making eye contact at first. Direct eye contact can scare or threaten a dog. Look at the floor or the side.
  • Speak to dogs on their terms. On the floor, squat or take a seat. Don’t approach a dog too closely.
  • Close the distance while dispensing rewards for a secure encounter. Toss one treats at a time while squatting. This allows your dog to approach at its own pace and get a treat simultaneously. Before interacting with them, wait till they take a treat out of your hand.
  • Kiss them under the chin or on the chest. Avoid touching their heads; most dogs don’t like it!
  • Create trust with your dog before bringing them to public areas like the dog park, a friend’s house, a restaurant, or a brewery that allows dogs.

When faced with a stressful situation, your dog will regress. Give them time to gain your trust and confidence by moving cautiously.

Instructions on how to interact with other dogs

Just like you wouldn’t force your dog to interact with people, don’t make your dog interact with other dogs if they are frightened of them.

For instance, it’s not always possible to avoid running into other dogs on hikes. You can give yourself some space by moving to the other side of the street or off the walkway.