top of page

Working With Fearful Canines

I handle numerous anxiety cases each year, covering various forms of anxiety. For instance, your puppy might start noticing more of the world, becoming anxious as they encounter new things. A rescue dog might exhibit shelter dog anxiety or a general sense of unease towards life. They could also have separation anxiety, fear storms or loud noises, or get anxious around moving objects. Understanding their triggers is crucial to address their anxiety effectively. By gradually exposing them to these triggers and associating positive experiences, we can help them overcome their fears. In the next chapter, we'll delve into desensitization techniques and how counter conditioning can transform their anxiety into calm confidence.

Transforming Fear into Confidence

To address a dog's anxiety, it is crucial to first identify the triggers causing their distress. Explore our recent blog post highlighting the top ten common fears in dogs for insights. Understanding these fears allows us to begin reshaping their reactions towards triggers. Desensitization, counter-conditioning, and response substitution are key techniques.

Desensitization involves gradually exposing the dog to the trigger at a manageable level to reduce fear. This method helps the dog to become more comfortable and less reactive over time. It is important to pair this exposure with positive reinforcement, such as treats or praise, to create a positive association with the trigger. Patience and consistency are key, as the process can take weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the dog's fear.


Works alongside desensitization by changing the dog’s emotional response to a trigger. For example, if a dog is fearful of loud noises, you might start by playing the noise at a very low volume while giving the dog a treat. Gradually, as the dog becomes more comfortable, the volume can be increased, always ensuring that the dog remains relaxed and positive towards the situation.

Response substitution teaches the dog to replace undesirable behaviors with positive ones through reinforcement. For example, redirecting their attention from triggers to play or eye contact can be effective. By consistently applying these techniques, owners can foster a healthier and more harmonious relationship with their pets. It's important to remain patient and consistent, as behavior modification takes time and dedication. Positive reinforcement, such as treats, praise, or extra playtime, can further encourage desired behaviors and create a strong bond of trust and understanding between the dog and its owner. With love, patience, and the right approach, any dog can learn to thrive and become a well-behaved, happy companion.

Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT)

Focuses on allowing the dog to make choices and rewarding calm behavior. By observing and understanding the dog’s body language, owners can step in to guide the dog through stressful situations, providing support without forcing the dog into discomfort.

Implementing these techniques requires understanding and empathy towards the dog's experience.

Understanding how to use the techniques above can help your pup significantly change their mindset behind their triggers. Some other things to keep in mind would be:

Management and Training: Focuses on preventing the dog from encountering triggers while simultaneously working on behavior modification techniques. This can include using barriers, leashes, or other tools to control the environment and reduce stress. Though you don't want to avoid triggers all together, you definitely want to avoid your dog going over threshold around their triggers.

Calming Techniques: Incorporate methods like massage, aromatherapy, or the use of calming aids such as Thundershirts to help soothe the dog. These approaches can provide comfort and promote a sense of security.

Consistent Routine: Establishes a predictable daily schedule for the dog, which can help reduce anxiety and create a stable environment. Regular feeding, walking, and playtimes can make the dog feel more secure.

Professional Guidance: Involves seeking help from veterinarians, professional dog trainers, or animal behaviorists to tailor a comprehensive behavior modification plan suited to the dog's specific needs. These experts can provide valuable insights and support throughout the process. Here at Run Free K9 we are eager to helping our clients overcome difficult challenges and strive to make every client happier and healthier through fun and effective training.

By employing a combination of these strategies, dog owners can effectively address and manage their pets' behavioral issues, fostering a harmonious and stress-free relationship.

Anxiety can significantly impact a dog's well-being, so it's essential to address it patiently and with understanding. Correcting behavior without addressing the underlying emotions may lead to control aggression. Prioritize your dog's emotional health and work at their pace to resolve these issues effectively.

6 views0 comments


bottom of page