HELP, I’M SCARED!
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
TIP: Never coddle fear behavior. This will just increase it and reinforce it.
The definition of an irrational fear is an abnormal fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it despite that it is not dangerous. If your puppy has an irrational fear like walking on a shiny floor or hiding when the vacuum cleaner is turned on, or a fear of objects, it needs to be dealt with. WITHOUT CODDLING. The definition of coddling: to treat in an indulgent or overprotective way. A flight puppy will run away from the fear or shut down. A fight puppy will bark.
IRRATIONAL FEARS IN A PUPPY THAT TAKES THE FLIGHT APPROACH:
If the fear is an unfounded threat, like fear of a larger friendly dog, another person, an object (statue etc.) NEVER pick him up. Make him deal with it. If he whines, ignore it. If runs behind you, move away. If he jumps up on your legs, move away. Never pet, talk or CODDLE him during this time. Let him find his brave side. Ask people not to address your puppy. Tell them that he is fearful and you are trying to help him overcome it. The best way to help him, is for them to ignore him. The entire encounter, unless the puppy begins to wag his tail and shows interest in meeting the new person, not touch, no talk, no eye contact.
QUALIFIER: if you have no dog experience, do not introduce your puppy to adult dogs without someone who has a good knowledge of dogs. Like a professional dog walker, or trainer. You have to be able to read an adult dog’s body language and without dog experience, you cannot do this effectively. Many people will tell you that their dog is dog friendly, and this could be truthful, but you don’t ever want your puppy to experience a dog that turns out not to be puppy friendly. That is just terrifying and will hurt his trust in you and in dogs. So if you have no experience with dogs, never allow a strange dog to approach your puppy. Please make sure you have an experienced dog handler help you socialize your puppy with adult dogs while he is young. He needs to learn how to interact with fellow canines.
IRRATIONAL FEARS IN A PUPPY THAT TAKES THE FIGHT APPROACH:
If your puppy barks when he is scared, this puppy is taking the fight approach. These puppies tend to have more confidence than the ones that take the flight approach. They can and often will turn their irrational fears into a bite as adult dogs if not dealt with as a puppy. The golden rule of NEVER CODDLE also applies to the fight dog too. Coddling always, always reinforces the behavior. The best way to deal with fight approach puppy is address the fear and immediately reward good behavior (no barking). Addressing means asking him to look at you, to turn away from his fear object. He needs to know that overcoming a fearful object, situation, or sound with an aggressive approach is not acceptable behavior for you. Once he is looking at you, reward with a treat. It is always good to keep treats with you. Puppies that take food are not in a fearful state of mind and are ready to be rewarded. If you happen to have a little fighter on your hands, it would be very wise to enlist the help of a professional trainer. They can teach you how to deal with their fight approach and eliminate it.
Sometimes fighter puppies are fearful of people and they can even scare a person with their barking. If you have a fear fighter puppy that is suddenly fearful of people, you need dog people to help. Call some dog friendly friends, acquaintances, or neighbors and enlist their help. Ask them to approach you and your puppy and when the puppy starts to bark and freak out, have them ignore your puppy. You address it with a tug on your leash and without words, then ignore your puppy and engage in conversation with your helper, not your puppy. When the puppy ignores your helper, reward with a treat.
TIP: A leash is a great training tool. Completely necessary in all training exercises for both flight and fight puppies.
For both flight and fight puppies, it is important to know how to address their fear reactions. In the end you are trying to build confidence in your puppy while your puppy is still young. It is very important to build confidence in puppies. The best way to do it is early socialization. The more you socialize him to the things of the world that he will be living in, the better.
There will be time periods throughout a young dog’s life that fear will present itself. Something that he has never feared before will suddenly have him barking, shaking, hiding or submissive peeing. For the flight dog Ignore it, for the fight dog, address it and reward good behavior. This time will pass. Remember the golden rule in a fear situation for a puppy is to “Never coddle” and allow him to work through it. The best motto for you to adopt during this time is to stay calm and carry on, and your puppy will too.