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Apr 24

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Walking The Anxious Dog

Dog with LeashI’ve recently met with several people and their fearful dog.  Cases that were presented included fear of walking down the street, meeting new people, etc.  Forcing a dog to do something that he doesn’t want to do is the biggest mistake one can make.  If your dog walks to a certain point down your street, stops and wants to turn around to go home, then go with it.  By making him do something he doesn’t want to do will only intensify the anxiety he is experiencing.  The best way to handle a fearful dog is to take baby steps with him.  Slowly attempt to get him to reach further destinations with positive reinforcement.  You can toss a few treats a few steps in front of the dog to see if he’ll go a little bit further.  If he does, then progress has been made.  If not, then just go in the direction the dog wants to go.

Not too long ago, a neighbor’s large, off-leash German Shepherd decided he wanted to meet and greet my dogs while my husband and I were walking down our street.  The Shepherd literally darted right for us scaring Bailey a little.  Needless to say, the experience created a bit of hesitation for Bailey to walk passed that house again.  I started attempting to lure her with a squeaky toy to walk passed and that didn’t work too well.  So we just turned around, headed home, and started again the next day.  This time I brought some pieces of chicken.  Happily, she started walking a few more steps each and every day and now walks by that “big ole” Shepherd with no problem or hesitation.

It probably looked crazy to my neighbors to walk past three houses, get to the house with the Shepherd and turn around, but with time and patience it worked.  Bailey’s fear has subsided and she again walks confidently down the street.  By not trying to strong arm Bailey into a situation wherein I knew she was uncomfortable, we were able to work through the anxiety and created a more positive atmosphere.  Another example of desensitization and counter-conditioning at work.

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