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October 2023

Tips on Managing a Nervous Dog

Sunday, January 20, 2019
posted by Jim Murphy

If you’ve just adopted a new family friend and notice that he’s shy or becomes nervous around people and other animals, there are things that you can do to ease his tension. The dogs nervousness can stem from many issues from being abused or experiencing a frightening situation. Whole Dog Journal, has put together some tips to take into consideration if your dog is shy or nervous.

Managing a Nervous Dog

Management, simply put, is avoiding the problem or thing that triggers the problem (scary people, in this case) by controlling the dog’s surroundings. Management alone won’t solve fears, but it can help prevent your dog’s fear response – such as cowering, submissive urination, barking, or growling – until he can become more comfortable around those people who scare him.

Management can help lower the stress for you and your dog, and help create an atmosphere favorable for training and behavior modification. In some cases, management is essential for safety. (Note: If your dog has bitten anyone – even in fear – consult with a behavior specialist such as a certified applied animal behaviorist, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, or a certified dog behavior consultant.)

Each dog will require slightly different management strategies depending on who she is afraid of. For example, if you have a dog who is afraid of strangers, you might employ these management strategies:

• Avoid crowded areas where your dog may be overwhelmed by strangers.

• Use a leash, crate, or baby gate to prevent your dog from interacting with strangers in your home.

Think about ways you can protect your dog if you are caught off guard, too:

• If a stranger approaches and asks to pet your dog, you can say, “No, I’m sorry, but my dog is uncomfortable with people she doesn’t know.”

• Put yourself between the person and your dog.

• Create distance by crossing the street or going a different direction.

Once you have management in place and your dog’s overall stress levels go down, get ready to train, desensitize, and counter-condition!

Remember, your pets count!

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