Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Living with and Loving a Fearful Dog

Upward Hound Blog
Living With and Loving a Fearful Dog
It's a long game, right? Maybe you thought this dog was going to be like your last one. Happy-go-lucky, go-with-the-flow, low-maintenance. Your training goals were going to be house training and teaching him not to jump on your guests. Instead, your goals have centered around helping him navigate and feel comfortable in a world that doesn't seem built for him.
A few weeks after we adopted Bruce, my brother Brian visited us from out of town. My tall, bearded, ball-cap-wearing brother. To my shock and dismay, and to my brother's alarm, Bruce charged him from across the yard. The scene is still clear in my memory, as only frightening events are. Bruce threw his entire 75 pounds into an intimidation strategy designed to make Brian stop right there, and I'm not kidding around. Lunging, barking aggressively, air-snapping close to Brian's hands, and muzzle-butting him.
Wondering how to tell if your dog's afraid of something, by the way? To start with, a fear-based behavior is intended to increase the distance between the dog and the Scary Thing. Sometimes the message is, "I'll go away", and sometimes it's, "You go away", as in Bruce's case. Read more about how dogs show their discomfort and visit iSpeakDog, the best online decoder of behavior and body language.
That was just the beginning. As we soon discovered, Bruce wasn't just afraid of my brother. He was afraid of all unfamiliar people. But large bearded men in hats occupied a special place in his 9th circle of hell.
If you're like me, it's painful to realize that your dog lives in fear. Maybe your dog is afraid of other dogs. Or maybe it's people - all of them, or just a subset like children, bicyclists, or people in uniforms. You're equal parts heartbroken and embarrassed by your dog's behavior, and confused by the conflicting messages you get about how to "fix" an aggressive dog. Read the entire article

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