How To Handle Everyday Puppy Fears
You have a new puppy and you want to show her the world! Most of the time her first weeks with you are chaotic but happy and full of “firsts”. Her first walk outside, her first trip to the pet store, etc. In these first weeks it is common to encounter a normal situation that causes your normally friendly, confident pup to shy away from, or even bark at, a particular object or even bark at it. This can be surprising to a new puppy owner, but periods of fear and oversensitivity are a normal part of canine development. However, these situations need to be handled carefully in order to help your puppy conquer her fear and prevent long-term phobias from forming.
How To Handle Everyday Fears:
If your pup is showing fear or anxiety towards an object, the key to helping her relax is in your calm demeanor. Let’s say your dog is afraid of a balloon – a strange blowing, floating orb. She starts barking and growling in its direction. While you may feel silly or embarrassed at your puppy’s behavior, staying calm is key. Take your time and allow your puppy to feel out this new situation.
- Step closer to the balloon, leaving some give in the leash. Do not drag your puppy towards the object.
- If your puppy looks to you andresponds to your stable reaction to the object and ceases her barking and growling, take another step closer to the object and praise her.
- If your pup continues to shy away from the balloon, ignore her behavior.
- If she continues to resist, offer her a treat, which she could only obtain if she steps towards the balloon. This rewards her for approaching the object.
How NOT To Handle Everyday Fears:
- Do not pet your puppy or talk soothingly to her while she is barking or growling at an object. While you are just attempting to calm your puppy down, in actuality you are rewarding her fearful reaction and engraining that response to the object.
- Do not correct your dog harshly for her response. Yelling or yanking her collar is could create an association between your response and the object. This will perpetuate her fear.
- Do not attempt to force your puppy closer to the object by dragging, pulling or placing her closer to it. Remember “Slow and Steady Wins The Race” – this is always true in training. Attempting to take a shortcut can compound your pup’s fears.
For more information on puppies, see our our collection of puppy articles here.