Dog Training for Fearful Rescue dogs.

Santa Cruz County Dog Trainers

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The Fearful Rescue Dog:

  People with a big heart always want to help a fearful dog. If there’s a sad history about the dog the desire is stronger to help. However, the circumstances surrounding the dog can be difficult. If the adopters know the dog is fearful of people they could have their hands full, at least for a while. It’s common for a dog fearful of people  to avoid the adopters at times. The dog could be fearful to one or both of the new owners. It’s very common for a fearful dog to warm-up quicker to the female in the house. There’s a few reasons why but normally the bottom line is the male is usually more intimidating than the female. The male should never take this personally. I always recommend the male spend more quality time with dog to create that special bond.

  When a well-balanced dog is rescued into a new home it’s typical for the adjustment period to take 2-4 weeks. After that period  well-balanced dogs usually accept their new home and let their hair down and relax.  Dogs fearful of humans don’t have that schedule.  Also there shouldn’t be any time-table set by the owners. The schedule should be at a speed the Rescued dog is comfortable with. The new owners should be thoughtfully rehabilitating  the fearful dog but not pressuring the dog to immediately perform at a high level. The first step for the owners is to build trust with the dog.

  Building Trust with the Rescued dog can be lengthy. Most dogs fearful of humans have had a bad experience with them. That’s why it’s important to move slowly with them. A perfect environment for this type of dog is a calm and peaceful household. Most fearful dogs have never experienced calmness in their lives. For the most part they’re living in continual stress and anxiety.  A peaceful environment surrounding them is a great place to start rehabing them.  That means the home must be free of turmoil, high excitement, loud noises, yelling, and chaos.

   I consider a good home to be with an older couple with the knowledge, energy, and time to spend with their dog. Thepitbull-e1299245021656 owners should expect the dog to be responsive to them. They should always set their dog up to succeed with fair and attainable expectations. The road to recovery is clearly in progress once their dog starts to initiate the interaction. When a fearful dog begins to initiate approaches the owners can reinforce by rewarding them. They can immediately give a food treat, let them play with a special toy, or play a game with them. Sometimes in the beginning stage of these approaches it’s better to just leave the dog alone. Once a dog becomes somewhat comfortable they’ll begin to open up to their new surroundings. This includes their new owners. Before a fearful dog makes any approaches they’ve already watched closely and sized up the new owners. Occasionally a dog is only taking a closer look at things with no intentions of doing more than that. I recommend not making any eye contact while throwing a treat on the floor and saying “good boy/girl”. There’s a time and place for everything. Sometimes it’s good to just keep things low-key.  Depending on the dogs emotional and mental state will determine which approach to take when the dog starts to initiate being closer to the owners.

   Putting physical pressure on a dog to perform before the dog is ready just leads to trouble. The worst time to train is when the dog is stressed. If the dog is reactive it could turn on owners with aggressive behavior. When this happens it would be wise to ease up on such strict demands. It’s always easier for dogs to comply when they’re  relaxed. Informal training  during one on one play time is always a better idea.

Training dogs Fearful or Reactive to loud noises, fast movements, and barking dogs.


Dogs barking in neighborhood was being sought in video. Unexpectedly a nail gun at construction site provided the scary noise.  Before video Duke had previously experienced Counter-Conditioning technique. Initially it’s preferred dog voluntarily focuses on handler during scary or intense moments, which Duke did in video. The main goal is to change dogs negative perceptions and reactions to more positive as training continues. Duke wasn’t completely comfortable during nail gun noise but with more training experience he will get better.


  One way to build trust to owners is doing fun activities like going on walks. Spending casual fun time together is more important than formal training at this time. Hopefully the new owners have experience with basic training and are able to implement small portions at a time. If an owner is  firm but  fair at this stage much can be accomplished with their dog. Remember the focus and goal is for the dog to relax with the new owners. In actuality developing a good bond happens naturally with good experiences for the dog.  Daily walks gives  dogs a time to free their minds of anything negative and still stay connected to the owners.

  This writer is aware of the complexities of living with a dog fearful of humans. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive teaching  on the matter. It’s meant to express the need for giving the fearful dog a way to Experience what it feels like to Relax. A relaxed dog is always more likely to respond to owners in a more positive way. It’s also important to remember Rescue dogs  make great companions. In many cases they have no problems and are ready to move into a happy home immediately.

 Dog Training Tips for Fearful dogs:shelter-Dog-400x300

1. Consult a trained professional for advice.

2. Never physically pressure a fearful dog to perform any activities.

3. Create a relaxed and calm environment.

4. Use positive reinforcement for positive behavior.

4. Never intimidate or use force.

5. Let dog make approaches to owners or people in general when they’re ready.

6. Have fun activities together that dog will enjoy.

7. Stay relaxed. Dogs read body language including facial expressions. Dogs sensing stress makes them stressed.

8. Be a firm but fair leader. Dogs usually have no trouble following this type of owner.

9. On family walks the main adult handler should be adult the dog is more uncomfortable with overall. The dog most likely will be more comfortable in this scenario as long as everybody is together.  This gives their dog the opportunity to begin accepting that person as trustworthy.

  Giovannas Dog Training provides service for Private Dog Training, Group Dog Training, Private Puppy Training, and Group Puppy Training.


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