How to Rid Your Dog of Fear – Help For Owners of Older Dogs

If you adopted a rescue dog, there is a real good chance that he may be harboring fear of some object, noise, and perhaps even people. Fear in dogs originates from unpleasant experiences that the dog identifies with a specific source. Since a rescue dog has by definition been “rescued”, he most likely has been exposed to less than nurturing care. Abuse at the hands of an owner, adfox being left alone much of the time, forced to remain outside, all increase the chances that your rescue dog has developed a fear or two.

Why is it important to eliminate fear in your dog?

First and foremost, bitpapa any creature going through life with fear cannot experience happiness as often as they would without fear. And, you certainly want your dog to gain as much enjoyment in his world as possible. Also, fears can very often retard any training you attempt to administer since you may not have your dog’s full attention much of the time. Fear can also cause a dog to exhibit destructive behaviors like digging into your carpet or furniture. Worse yet, extreme fear and the desire to seek refuge can result in injury to your dog, especially for older dogs whose bodies are not able to cope as well with trauma. Or, if your dog fears loud noises, he may one day become lost as he attempts to escape the unsettling sounds.

Other reactions to fear that can make your dog’s life, and yours, less than ideal are constant whimpering, incessant barking or howling, chewing, climbing, cowering, uncontrollable urinating, moneyrule and disorientation. And, surely you’ve heard the expression “fear biter”. Fear in dog’s can make them act aggressively even towards family members. As much as we love them, dogs are animals, and the survival instinct trumps all.

What causes fear in dogs?

Obviously, before you can help your dog eliminate his fears, you need to know the source. Dogs can exhibit fear of noises (thunder, guns, music from the eighties), people (sometimes just one gender), confinement (be sure your dog’s crate is of the wire variety with plenty of visibility), darkness, or objects (vacuum cleaners, brooms, lawn mowers). Dogs also can be apprehensive of slippery floors, that can cause an older dog pain or injury.

What not to do to eliminate your dog’s fears

Before we start discussing ways to overcome your dog’s fear, let’s quickly review what you should not do. First, do not simply attempt to reassure your dog that all is okay by coddling, petting, or giving treats, without any other treatment. These actions alone will only reinforce the fearful behavior by providing her with a means to a very favorable end. Do not crate your dog, spicecinemas especially if loud noises are the cause. She may very well injure herself in an attempt to escape. Do not punish your dog for the negative behaviors she may exhibit as a result of fear. You’ll only end up making her a basket case.

How to eliminate, or at least minimize fears in your dog

As with any negative, unfavorable behavior exhibited by your dog, your duty as a responsible owner is to make sure that a health issue is not the cause. So, a visit to your vet would be a wise first step. Also, be sure you are exposing your dog to as many social situations as possible. Lots of walks in parks, car rides, time with family and friends. All will help to instill confidence in your dog and will reduce the repertoire of things your dog will fear.

Naturally, the sooner you intervene to ease your dog’s fears the better. But, to avoid disappointment, do not expect a quick fix. Treatment methods are gradual. Understand also that it is much easier to nip an emerging fear in the bud before it takes hold, but this scenario rarely plays out for owners of older or rescue dogs, whose fears are probably already well ingrained. But if you do happen to notice a fear manifesting in your dog or pup, you can employ a method of distraction to capture her attention away from the origin of the fear, before she begins behaving fearfully.  Take out a tennis ball, or start a race with your dog, make sure it’s an activity she enjoys. If distraction isn’t working, the fear is more entrenched than you may have thought and you’ll need to try one of the methods described below.

The most successful technique for eliminating fear in your dog is quite similar to the method used for people –  behavior modification. Without getting too clinical, baebed behavior modification is a way to improve behavior, through use of positive reinforcements and negative punishments. It is the process of altering reaction to stimuli. For dogs, its best to stress the positive reinforcement and not the negative punishments, because dogs rarely if ever act positively towards punishment.

Proper preparation requires you to thoroughly assess the problem. Be sure you know with certainty what is causing the fear. Next, plan for a gradual distancing of your dog from the fear object. Then, determine what things your dog finds most rewarding and gratifying. These will provide the positive reinforcement.

The specific behavior modification technique you will use is called “desensitization”. This involves teaching or conditioning your dog to behave in non-fearful ways to stimuli that frighten her. This is done by varying intensity and duration while providing positive reinforcement of desired behavior.

For example, if your dog fears certain sounds, make recordings of those sounds. Start with a low volume, so your dog won’t reach an anxious state immediately. Then, begin an activity that your dog finds pleasurable – an activity or even a favorite treat or food. Plan on a series of these sessions, and each time increase the volume and the duration of the sound. Each time you do this, your dog will begin to associate the rewards with the stimulus that previously caused only fear.

If it’s an object that causes fear, pg79th the same procedure will work. If the vacuum cleaner scares the daylights out of your dog, start with the appliance within sight of your dog as you partake in the pleasant activity. Each successive session, move it closer to your play area. Then, as your dog is comfortable with the object in close proximity, move it far away again and turn it on (low if it has settings). Continue this sequence until your dog has become totally desensitized to the sight and sound of the object.

If it’s a certain person that comes into your dog’s life enough to warrant overcoming the fear, you can devise a similar set of sessions with the person in the room at a distance. Again, setupfilings moving closer to the person as you and your dog enjoy doing whatever activity you selected as being very pleasurable for your dog.  Ultimately, the person can join in.

Of course, there are some fears that are best cured through avoidance. Slippery floors for example.  Dogs either can maneuver on them or they can’t. It’s best to use throw rugs if your dog needs to traverse the linoleum or tile floors in the course of his daily routines. As for dangerous objects, like lawnmowers, well it simply is best to keep your dog away.


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