4.) Underdogs

Fearful dogs with behavioral problems can be as dangerous as out-of-control alpha-dogs. This is especially true if small children are involved. If you are visiting this website and your dog is generally distrustful and afraid, there are a number of things you can do. First and foremost, if your dog has already bitten either you or someone in your family AND your dog has the physical ability to overpower you, I would advise you to get help from an experienced dog trainer. As I have mentioned in the previous section, if you have a problem dog and you live in California, talk to David Deleissegues. No, David is not paying me a commission! He is just that experienced.

To keep in mind when training or playing with fearful dogs:

Just like us humans, dogs are born with different personality traits, and being generally fearful can be one of them. If you have a fearful dog, it is very important that you don’t encourage his fearful behavior by trying to soothe or cuddle him whenever such behavior is displayed.

Your response would signal to your dog that there is indeed something wrong and that his fear is justified. Instead, the more fearful your dog is the more confident and calm you have to be.

Patience and positive reinforcements are critical. You need to take your time and help your dog to overcome his fear by showing him there is nothing to worry about. For example, if your dog is afraid of people, you can start out by inviting a friend to your home (your dog’s safe house) and calmly introduce your dog to this new friend. Have your friend stand still, avoid eye contact (at least initially) and offer your dog a treat. When your dog approaches, take your friend’s hand and offer the treat. Once this works, you can gradually remove yourself from this exercise and have your friend take over in the same calm manner. Desensitizing takes time, so don’t push your dog or you will achieve the opposite result. In my opinion, they only way to successfully train a fearful dog is with positive reinforcement methods (more detail in the following sections)

(Note: This post belongs to a series of multiple articles about the fundamentals of positive dog training.
Click here to go to the overview page that allows you to easily navigate to each article in this series.)

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