Getting Help for Anxious, Fearful Dogs - KLFY News 10

Getting Help for Anxious, Fearful Dogs

Posted: Updated:

With fearful dogs, more fear is the exact opposite of what's needed

 
By Noted Dog Trainer  Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis
Special to The Denver Post
denverpost.com

Fearful dogs are tricky. They are to dog trainers what antique glass heirlooms are to UPS delivery people: special care and handling required.

I've worked with the owners of many shy or fearful dogs, usually after these people spent years exacerbating the problem with their own misguided behavior: the weary woman who comes home to yet another accident on the rug and in her anger screams "No! No! No!" at her shy little dog; the macho man who wants his water-fearful dog to swim so badly that, out of frustration, he throws the pooch into the pool.

Her dog is now fearful of her arrival at the end of the day.

His dog is now fearful of water and him.

Fighting fear with fear doesn't work.

Full-on in-your-face exposure to that which is the source of great fear will not magically erase the fear, as if it existed only in an Etch A Sketch. Irrational fear is much deeper than that. In most dogs, such dramatic exposure will induce a flooding effect, in which the dog appears resigned but in actuality shuts down completely — as a last-resort coping mechanism. When neither fight nor flight is an option, freeze.

An 84-year-old woman called me last week. She was frustrated. Her three Pomeranians — a.k.a. The Three Stooges — were barking, yapping and eating the plants in her indoor garden. The Stooges are small and on the skittish side. Yelling, which never helps, would in their case make things much worse. I agreed to work with her.

First, I showed her how to use the leash as a training tool — in this case, to correct the excessive barking behavior. Then I invoked the all-powerful squirt bottle to subsidize the correction. This startles the dogs, distracting them from the unwanted behavior and giving her the opportunity to "reset" them to a more desirable behavior — which she then reinforces with praise and affection.

And finally, I introduced her to The Home Depot, where she found inexpensive, unobtrusive fencing to keep The Stooges from snacking on her azaleas.

A couple of training sessions, with her reinforcing the techniques and commands in between meetings with me, and the next thing I know, I'm greeted at the door with homemade biscotti! We were celebrating the fact that her problems with The Stooges had diminished to the point of total satisfaction. Peace in the kingdom. No fear-mongering required.

Regardless of your dog's temperament, if you could get him to drop unwanted behavior A in favor of desirable behavior B without scaring the daylights out of him, isn't that what they call a win-win?

But if your dog's temperament leans toward the nervous and anxious, fear tactics of any kind — including yelling and finger wagging — are off-limits. It'll take a little more time and patience, but in the end, you'll have a problem solved, instead of more problems.

Woof!

Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Send your questions to dearuncle.gazette@unclematty.com or P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.






 

  • Today's Celebrity Pet!

    Today's Celebrity Pet!

    GWEN STEFANI The singer and her pup hit the beach for a day of sun and fun in Marina del Rey, California.More >>
    BETTY WHITE The Golden Girl shares a sweet cuddle with pooch Delilah while attending the Saturday American Humane Association's Hero Dog Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.More >>
  • Wildlife Pic of the Week

    Wildlife Pic of the Week

    Here's today "Wildlife Pic of the Week" from the Smithsonian Magazine:Master of Disguise Photography by Graham McGeorge, Jacksonville, FL, USA Photographed at Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, USAMore >>
    Here's today "Wildlife Pic of the Week" from the Smithsonian Magazine:Master of Disguise Photography by Graham McGeorge, Jacksonville, FL, USA Photographed at Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, USAMore >>
  • Personality and Your Pet

    Personality and Your Pet

    Have you ever wondered what your pet choice says about your personality? Click on this link, it's sure to make you smile!ttp://msnvideo.msn.com/?videoid=0d79b149-c089-4113-808d-fd4320b33d85src=v5:pause:email:from=emailMore >>
    Have you ever wondered what your pet choice says about your personality? Click on this link, it's sure to make you smile!ttp://msnvideo.msn.com/?videoid=0d79b149-c089-4113-808d-fd4320b33d85src=v5:pause:email:from=emailMore >>
  • Should Dogs Ride Loose In the Car?

    Should Dogs Ride Loose In the Car?

    Thanks to Dr. Marty Becker of Vetstreet for this articleI’ve done it, and I know better. You’ve done it, and you probably know better too. I’ve written against it and recommended products that will prevent it. But I bet the majority of pet owners still do it. In fact, I know they do.What am I taking about? Letting dogs ride loose in the car, or even worse, letting a dog sit on your lap in the front seat, head happily out the window. Yes, dogs like — make that love! — doing this. And yes, it’s...More >>
    Thanks to Dr. Marty Becker of Vetstreet for this articleI’ve done it, and I know better. You’ve done it, and you probably know better too. I’ve written against it and recommended products that will prevent it. But I bet the majority of pet owners still do it. In fact, I know they do.What am I taking about? Letting dogs ride loose in the car, or even worse, letting a dog sit on your lap in the front seat, head happily out the window. Yes, dogs like — make that love! — doing this. And yes, it’s...More >>
  • Camp Bow Wow "Foster Dog of the Month"

    Camp Bow Wow "Foster Dog of the Month"

    Meet Mandy, a young pit bull terrier mix who is our Camp Bow Wow "Foster Dog of the Month" for October! Mandy had a bit of a rough start to life but is happy as can be now that she is out of theMore >>
    Meet Mandy, a young pit bull terrier mix who is our Camp Bow Wow "Foster Dog of the Month" for October! Mandy had a bit of a rough start to life but is happy as can be now that she is out of theMore >>
  • Why Does My Dog...Tilt Her Head to the Side?

    Why Does My Dog...Tilt Her Head to the Side?

    It's a classic dog move: Your pup hears something — a mysterious sound, a smartphone ring, a certain tone of voice — and suddenly her head tilts to one side as if she is contemplating what the sound wantsMore >>
    It's a classic dog move: Your pup hears something — a mysterious sound, a smartphone ring, a certain tone of voice — and suddenly her head tilts to one side as if she is contemplating what the sound wantsMore >>
  • How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Vet

    How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Vet

    By Pamela Babcock WebMD Pet Health Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM Taking your pet to the vet? Whether it's a routine appointment or you're checking on symptoms, there are steps you can take to help theMore >>
    By Pamela Babcock WebMD Pet Health Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM Taking your pet to the vet? Whether it's a routine appointment or you're checking on symptoms, there are steps you can take to help theMore >>
  • How to Housetrain Your Puppy or Kitten

    How to Housetrain Your Puppy or Kitten

    ByStephanie Watson WebMD Magazine Reviewed byWilliam Draper, DVM Puppies and kittens aren't like human babies. You can't wait 2 years to start potty training. "With a puppy or kitten you say, "Oh it'sMore >>
    ByStephanie Watson WebMD Magazine Reviewed byWilliam Draper, DVM Puppies and kittens aren't like human babies. You can't wait 2 years to start potty training. "With a puppy or kitten you say, "Oh it'sMore >>
Powered by WorldNow

1808 Eraste Landry Rd, PO Box 90665,
Lafayette LA 70509

Telephone: 337.981.4823
Fax: 337.984.8323
Email: tip10@klfy.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Louisiana, Inc. A Media General Company.