Keys to Working Through Doggy Anxiety
Emotional support animals are truly amazing. More and more people are finding that their pets have anxiety, too. This is not exactly a new phenomenon as rescued pups often exhibit some skittish behavior as they acclimate to new environments; this can sometimes be the result of abuse or it could be any kind of trauma experienced earlier in its life.
So, you picked out the cutest pup in the world but aren’t sure how to make them comfortable and well-adjusted? We have some tips, just keep reading.
Patience is King
It’s hard to watch your pet be uncomfortable or scared, but you being able to keep your cool is a HUGE help to them and will ultimately be a stepping stone for their confidence.
We know – this one is obvious, but it can’t be overstated. Understanding that every day, or every training session may not go well is arguably the most important component to desensitization because it yields real improvement.
Reward Like Crazy
Training and desensitization can be fun! When I train my dogs, I’m throwing out snacks like I’m Oprah.
Break out the high-value snacks like pieces of hot dog, chicken, or even steak. Not only are these attention-grabbing for your dog but they’re likely to overpower their interest in anything else (assuming they are food motivated). If they prefer praise or toys, go with whatever works for them! Unlocking their motivator is crucial to get them to want to train and focus.
Near is Good Enough
If you are dealing with a reactive or aggressive dog, you are walking a stressful line of caring for your pet while protecting those around you – we get it. This job is not for the faint of heart but is so incredibly worth it. For the first few training sessions, until you both are comfortable, just seeing their triggers from inside the car or sitting at a park is good enough. You get to perfect behavior by taking one teeny tiny step in front of the other and slowly introducing them to things in order to build confidence takes time.
Pick Your Battles
We once had a dog trainer that told us this advice and it seemed crazy at the time. Pick my battles? I’m here actively trying to build up my dog into the best he can be, you want me to just let him be scared of things? She said yeah. You have to know when to push your dog – and yourself. If your dog is scared of something benign like birthday balloons – maybe opt for streamers for birthdays instead; or, work with him to go in another room when you break those decorations out. They don’t have to be perfect. They do have to be able to listen to you and keep themselves and others safe – that is the most important thing.
We know training can be tough, but you got this! With love, treats, and patience, you really can’t be set up any better for success.