Tips to Help Fearful Dogs in Playa Del Rey

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 11, 2022

For this Playa Del Rey in-home dog training session, we worked with Tweezer and Piper, sharing tips to help fearful dogs.

Because I knew the dogs were afraid of strangers, I had the guardians bring them out to meet me out front one at a time. I always like to meet fearful dogs outside because it provides a lot of distractions and the open space makes them feel less cornered.

How to Help Fearful Dogs

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If you have a dog who is scared of humans, it’s important to recognize their warning signals so we can stop whatever is scaring them the instant they start to feel uncomfortable. Recognizing dog cut off signals goes a long ways towards helping scared dogs regain confidence because we stop the dog from feeling more fearful.

Next I went over some forms of enrichment; physical exercise and mental stimulation options. These are an important part of a dog’s mental health and can improve their mood and confidence. Feeding out of a snuffle matt or puzzles, scent games, basic obedience or trick training, using lick mats can all help distract a dog from their fears and provide a way to work out their pent up anxiety.

I filmed three positive dog training videos to help fearful dogs in this session. The first one was with Piper, a dog who doesn’t like human hands reaching for her face. Piper would freeze if she was unable to move away when a hand approached her. This is likely why she shies away from human contact when people reach out for her.

I handed my camera to her guardians so I could share a tip for dogs who don’t like being touched. If you have a dog who cowers when a hand reaches for them, you should check out the free positive dog behavior video below.

If the guardians go slow and practice often, in short 1-3 minute practice sessions, they should be able to help build up a positive association with human hands. Because her fear of hands was so profound, it may take a week or so before they can reach all the way to her without touching before she stops freezing (head down, stiff body) or moving away. In time, it would be great if the guardian can then teach her a hand targeting game. But it will be important to not try to teach hand targeting until they can reach and touch Piper without her turning / moving away or freezing.

Next we turned our attention to Tweezer, the new rescue dog who barks at people he doesn’t know.

One of the tips I have learned to help dogs who are scared of humans is to reward the dog for simply looking at the stranger. This is a easy way to create a positive association as the dog is far enough away to not feel frightened. In fact, being far enough away is the most important part of this secret to helping dogs who fear strangers.

If you have a dog who barks at people it doesn’t know, you should check out this free positive dog behavior training video to learn how to help the dog feel good about strangers.

At first the guardians will be clicking when the dog looks at the person, but after some practice(the second or third day of practice), they should wait a second before clicking every ten reps or so. The goal is to wait a second every day or so on one of the reps to see if Tweezer turns away from the person on his own. Once he does, that’s when they will start to click for looking away at people.

Once Tweezer is looking away from people he doesn’t know, the guardians can start moving a few feet closer to them, then practice again. Now we were doing this in the home as we covered a number of other dog behavior issues. But Id like to see them find a nice park or open space outdoors to practice. The outdoors and larger space should help Tweezer feel more comfortable.

The last dog behavior problem we worked on was the dogs barking when people knock on the door or other unknown sounds. When you have a dog that barks at sounds, it can cause the other dog to bark at the sound as well. The dogs also bark when they see someone passing by the window.

I decided to show the guardians how they can use counterconditioning to stop a dog from barking at a knock on the door. If your dog barks at sounds, you should watch this positive dog training video with the secret to stopping dog barking.

By introducing a knock at a low enough intensity, we were able to help the dogs hear it and not respond. When that happened, we rewarded the dogs, basically for not barking although the dogs aren’t processing that concept. Just like the hand reaching exercise we did with Piper, its crucially important we go slowly. You want to gradually build up to a full knock, or knocks with no barking. If the dogs bark, the knock was too loud. The guardians then need to wait for the dogs to calm down, then try again, knocking quieter.

The guardians can also use a variation of this exercise to stop them from barking at shadows outside the window. But for that, and perhaps for the knocking at the door, practicing one dog at a time may be best to avoid one dog starting the other.

Because both dogs were so fearful, we did discuss the use of Flouxatine, AKA doggie prozac. This may help “dim the brightness” of the dog’s anxiety and assist in the behavior modification process.

Since we covered so many dog behavior tips in this in-home Playa del Rey dog training session, I recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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