By, Traci Whiteside, Master Trainer

Do you have a fearful dog? Perhaps a rescue with an unknown past or a pup that hasn’t been ideally socialized. Sometimes dogs become fearful after a traumatic experience. Regardless of the circumstances, these five easy steps should help your dog to become more confident and less fearful.

1. Socialize Your Dog Slowly and Steadily
Don’t push a fearful dog into something before he is ready but don’t give up either. Visit a “scary” place or thing often and allow your dog to observe from a “safe” distance while gradually moving your dog closer to it. It is not necessary to talk to your dog during this process but if you do keep your voice low and calm! If you get too loud and excited this may make your dog more fearful.

2. Get Your Dog Out of The House More
The more you take your dog out of their comfort zone, which is usually their home, you are allowing him to experience the world and what’s in it. Without that experience, your dog never has the opportunity to learn and will remain fearful of unfamiliar things. With frequent outings you should notice your dog becoming more curious and will soon begin looking forward to exploring the environment with you. Note: On these outings it is better to let your dog walk on a leash than to carry him. By walking he is able to explore with feet and nose. You know, like real dogs do !

3. Listen To Your Dog
It is important to watch your dog’s body language. Pay attention to their ears and tail. Do they looked relaxed or are they tucked in? If you notice your dog looks afraid help by offering calming reassurance through your verbal and physical praise. It is ok to be your dog’s comforter as long as you remain calm and confident. If you are nervous it is probably best that you leave the situation and try again another time.

4. Train Your Dog
Teach your dog simple cues such as sit, lie down, and stay. Not only are you teaching your dog to use his brain to think, you are building his confidence in you as his leader. You and your dog become a team and he will learn to look to you for guidance when he feels insecure and afraid.

5. Speak for Your Dog
Surprisingly, many people including dog lovers do not understand dog language. The things that feel natural to humans as ways of helping a fearful dog are not always best. For example, someone trying to be your dog’s friend may approach your dog, get in his face and talk to him. Dogs do not appreciate this and some even feel so threatened by it that they snap at the person. If you notice your dog showing fear of someone be sure to ask that person to give your dog space and time to warm up on his own. Ask your friend to ignore your dog until he is ready for interaction. It is never rude to protect your furry kid by speaking up for him.