Is Your Puppy Afraid? 5 Steps To Help

Unfortunately, sometimes you have a puppy or dog that seems to be fearful of either one thing – or many things. If your puppy seems to be afraid of certain things, like men, kids, the vacuum, the good news is that you can change your dog’s behavior.

Lots of dog owners believe that puppies will outgrow their fears, but isn’t how it works. Your puppy needs to learn confidence and the only way they can learn that is from you. Get your puppy familiar with things that make them uncomfortable, build structure into your puppy’s life and teach obedience training. These things will help build your puppy’s confidence

Follow my step-by-step tips for helping your puppy or dog overcome fear:

  1. Your puppy needs to be able to lessen his fearfulness at his own pace. Never try to force a person or situation that scares your puppy. If you do this, it just confirms to the puppy that the person or situation is dangerous. Let the puppy do it on his own time.
  2. Start obedience training. Training show your dog that you are the leader in the relationship. If he trusts you because he views you as his strong leader he will trust that you can handle scary situations.
  3. Once you have been training him to sit or stay, start redirecting his focus by training the puppy in the area of the person or situation he is fearful of. Do this at a comfortable distance. Then, over a period of time, you can slowly begin to get your puppy closer to the “feared object.”
  4. If your puppy is afraid of a person, have the person stand a distance away from the puppy, not look at the puppy, not make a big deal of anything and toss food treats periodically to the puppy. Done repeatedly when the person is around the puppy, the puppy will begin to associate good things with the once “scary stranger.”
  5. It needs to be your puppy’s choice if he wants to approach his fear and if he backs off, that is okay. It takes time and patience to show your puppy that there is nothing to fear. Just as with a small child, things don’t happen immediately. You have to work with patience and understanding and do things in a gradual manner.

Sometimes it helps to think of yourself, your fears and things that make you uncomfortable. Would you want someone to force you into a situation you are afraid of? Your puppy shouldn’t be forced either. Give him time and with a little training he will come around on his own, gain confidence and lose some of that fear.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children, and remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2011

4 Responses to Is Your Puppy Afraid? 5 Steps To Help

  1. michelle

    September 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    My situation with a frightened puppy is slightly different.
    For starters,the frightened puppy is our neighbours puppy,but does come through our fence during the day to play with our dog.
    My dog and the pup seem to really enjoy each others company,so my husband and (being animal lovers) just let them be.
    The problem however is that I suspect the puppy is not being treated very well by the neighbours and she is very scared,she will come into my house,which I don’t mind,but she does have a very slouched posture,head held down,ears pulled back,urinates and tail between legs.
    It breaks my heart to see her frightened and don’t know how toe help her exactly.
    I have noticed she seems frightened of my husband,although she does go to him and then if any sudden or loud noices occur she flees while urinating.
    She has luckily never tried to bite or nip at us or my children. She just seems generally scared.
    Is there any way that I can teach her not to be afraid while at our house?
    Thank you

  2. JBurwell

    September 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm


    Thank you for being kind to this little puppy. I would just continue to be kind and gentle with the dog and maybe the owners will tire of it and offer her to you.

    She will learn that she is safe at your home.

  3. Blake

    December 28, 2014 at 12:58 am

    I brought home a puppy a week ago, he is a 12 week old black lab. At first I thought he liked my husband better bc he was trying really hard to get my husband to acknowledge him but now that hubby acknowledges him the puppy us scared to death of him! I’m hubby says any thing to the pup he pees! He is mostly house trained but for some reason keeps going to the bathroom in our sons room. Hubby says i can’t get this under control the dog goes! He does good for me during the day but when hubby gets home he hides behind me. Hubby has spanked him for pooping in the baby’s room but so have I. Any suggestions on what I can do to alleviate the situation without having to find a new home for the puppy?

  4. Rebecca Burwell

    December 31, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    First of all, do not spank your puppy for any reason. They do not understand that kind of behavior. You need to communicate with your pet in a different way. Please look up potty training at the very least, and if possible contact a local trainer. You can also try contacting local rescue groups for advice on potty training. They see lots of dogs and puppies and they will have some good advice.