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