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Dealing with Dogs' Fears
Can someone give me a little advice on my buddy MEAT?? He's an almost 2-year-old 80 pound English Bulldog. For the most part he's an excellent dog, but he has some quirks that I just don't and can't understand. All of a sudden he's become spooked by just about every strange outside noise that he hears. A little bump or something that he doesn't know, and it's grumbling and fussing, all in the form of barking. Sometimes he'll look at me first and if I just shake my head no and tell him it's okay, he'll lay back down.
And also, for some reason he believes in shape shifting, I guess. The other day he was laying in the floor looking straight at me while I put on a hat and looked in a mirror. I turned and looked at him and he starts growling at me. Sounded ferocious until I spoke to him and pulled of that hat. He doesn't think that hats are evil because my brother in law always wears a hat and he never gets that reaction. It's only when someone puts a hat on and he sees them afterward. Is he crazy or what??
Jerry Cartwright via @AllThingsDog Daily newspaper
- Dad’s got your back. This means you’re going to teach Meat some simple skills he can perform when scary stuff happens (usually this includes interacting with you in some way). Use food, toys and praise. Using any kind of force or coercion will only make the problems worse. Having his back also means you won’t force him to handle a scary situation he’s not ready for.
- Everything’s cool. Because we are teaching Meat using reward-based methods, we are automatically associating food, play and praise with formerly scary things. Your behavior consultant will call this counter conditioning, and it’s the path we want to walk with our fearful dogs.
- Meat has choices. I love teaching dogs to make appropriate choices to help them calm themselves. Again, this often means interacting with you – and it almost always means teaching calm relaxed behavior as a winning choice. Catch him in the act of getting it right and guide his behavior with your feedback.
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