Helping a Scared Pit Get Over Her Fear of Humans

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 7, 2019

For this Los Angeles Dog Psychology session, we help Hunny, a beautiful Pitbull Rescue who is shy and super fearful around people.

Hunny’s guardian reported that she usually runs away to cower when he comes home (even though her rescued her over a year ago) so we arranged for him to return home at the same time I arrived so I could see it.

Hunny not running away and taking treats from my hand were great things to see, even though the goal was for me to see her regular behavior.

When we headed inside I gave Hunny plenty of space, didn’t try to pet, talk to or engage with her. When you are helping a fearful dog giving them space is one of the best things you can do. I made sure to also point out that petting a fearful dog while it is fearful can actually amplify the fearful behavior. This is probably the most common mistake people make when trying to help a anxious dog stop acting so fearful around people.

After chatting about things for a few minutes, I pulled out some high value training treats to show the guardian a great way to help a fearful dog feel confident when meeting new people. You can learn some of the tricks the best dog behaviorists use to help a scared dog get over a fear of new people by watching the free dog training video below.

While its heartbreaking to see a fearful dog cower or look so uncomfortable, these are the cases that are the most rewarding for me as a dog behavior expert. Helping a rescue dog regain its confidence is something that you know is going to be a game changer for the dog and the human.

Notice how I didn’t encourage the dog to get the treats. I made sure the dog saw me drop or toss them, but then I waited for Hunny to come and get it when she wanted. Giving the dog time and space to make their own decisions is a very important part of helping a scared dog get over its fears.

As the session progressed, Hunny’s stiff and hunched over body language abated and she started to stand tall, linger away from the dog bed (her safe place) and even laid on the floor near her guardian, something he mentioned he wished she would do.

I shared a number of the tips I use to help fearful dogs warm up to people. Even simple things like the guardian laying down on the dog bed and waiting for Hunny to come and lay next to him can be beneficial.

I also showed him how to make changes to the environment to motivate the dog to come out of its shell. Moving the dog bed a few inches towards the middle of the room each day, stuffing high value treats into things the dog fears and having people come and practice will all help the guardian rehabilitate his fearful dog.

I advised the guardian to make a list of all the things the dog is afraid of so that he can use this counterconditioning trick to help the dog get over its fear of sounds. By systematically practicing this positive dog training technique, the guardian can eliminate fears that are causing the dog to shut down.

The one place where Hunny doesn’t act fearful is the dog park near her home. I recommended the guardian go to this dog park as often as possible, but to be vigilant for any dogs who may have a negative impact on Hunny. This dog park should be considered her most valuable resource as repeating happy behavior as often as possible is frequently one of the best things a person can do to help a dog stop being afraid.

I also went over a few exercises to help promote interacting with humans. Teaching Hunny to Focus is a great way to help her practice making eye contact and the touch / target game is a nice way to get her interacting proactively.

We finished things up by filming a roadmap to success video to help the guardian remember all the positive dog training and behavior suggestions I made in this in home LA dog training session.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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