Teaching a Havanese Dog in LA to Focus to Help Reduce Her Anxiety

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 31, 2017

For this Los Angeles dog training session we helped 7 year-old female Havanese Truffles get over her anxiety around new people by training her to Focus.

Many people think the best way to help an anxious dog is to pet it. But if not knowing you is the cause for the dog anxiety, touching it or getting too close can make things worse.

When you have a nervous dog, the best approach is to go slow. Move slowly. Turn your body sideways. Avoid direct eye contact. Kneel down or sit. Don’t talk to the dog. Take short pauses anytime the dog shows signs of stress; licking lips, breathing heavily or holding breath, dilated pupils, moving slowly or freezing in place. By going slowly and recognizing the signs of a stressed out dog, you can help it relax and feel more comfortable.

I spent the first half of the session going over small ways to help Truffles guardians help the dog feel more relaxed and comfortable. Adding rules and structure can help many dogs feel more like a follower. Its important for dogs to have a follower mindset as leaders are responsible for looking after their charges.

As a dog behavior expert, I have seen many cases of dogs who’s source of stress was the guardians failing to provide structure. This causes the dog to think it needs to be responsible for the humans. But when the humans don’t follow the dog’s lead, this compounds the stress leading to an even more nervous dog as it feels like its failing the human.

To help Truffle’s guardians redirect her attention, I walked her guardians through a Focus exercise. You can get this free dog training tip by watching the video below.

Many a LA dog trainer has taught this technique, but they often do so by holding the treat at their temple, luring the dog to look up. My dog behaviorist approach is a little different. I wait for the dog to voluntarily look up at me, then I provide the reward along with the command word.

After demonstrating the technique, I coached the guardians through this focus command themselves as they will need to have the same response in order to condition the dog to give them her attention on command.

We finished things up by going for a short walk. I shared my rules for a structured walk while also making sure to point out that for some portion of it, the dog needs to be able to have fun by having leash freedom to go and sniff where she pleases. By making this leash freedom part of the walk after the dog practices good heel walking, we create an incentive and reward system that the dog should respond to.

To make sure the guardians remember all the dog training secrets I shared in this in home dog training session, I had them film me as I recorded a roadmap to success video. You can check it out by watching the video below.

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