Unfortunately, sometimes you have a puppy or dog that seems to be fearful of either one thing – or many things. Everyone wants a happy, outgoing puppy or dog that just loves life and everything in it, but that isn’t the case with every puppy. If your puppy seems to be afraid of certain things, like men, kids, the vacuum, you can change that.

Lots of dog owners believe that puppies will outgrow their fears, but that isn’t always how it happens. The best thing you can do is help your puppy get familiar and comfortable with things that seem to make them uncomfortable. You have to instill confidence in your puppy and this can usually be done by building structure into the puppy’s life and teaching obedience training. Both of these things give your puppy confidence.

Here are some good guidelines to follow:

  • Most importantly, the puppy should 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.
  • There are some things you can try to help your puppy along without forcing him. If he trusts you because he views you as his strong leader he will trust that you can handle the scary situation.
  • If 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”.
  • 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”.
  • 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 2010