Working with a Fearful Dog
Robin and I had just finished installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fence System in Bonita Springs. We were working with our client’s Great Dane, Hazel. She responded to the perimeter training really well and we were finishing up. Our client then asked us about her King Charles Spaniel, Willow. She didn’t have any escaping issues and was not part of our perimeter training, but it seemed that she was very fearful of people and even our client’s family. They had tried buying her favorite toys, having people hold her every time guests were over, etc. Nothing worked. Since we were also professional dog trainers, she asked us for any tips we might offer.
We have been seeing more and more fearful dogs in our training over the last several years. In trying to solve this problem, most people just make it worse. Many times dogs are fearful because they are put in a strange environment where they see no leader to protect or guide them. They see something that they fear might hurt or disrupt their life and they enter a fight or flight mode. Their focus turns inward instead of outward towards their owner to protect and guide them.
There are many ways to help dissipate this issue and we would like to share one of our favorites with you today. The secret is to join two training methodologies; behavior modification and treat training.
The process is called “V-Feeding” and uses treats (or food) as a method to introduce the proper behavior through passive socialization. The goal of the process is to have Willow understand that she doesn’t need to be adrenalized and fearful every time she sees a new (strange) person enter her area. Here is how it is done:
- The client and Willow are in a large room. Willow is on a loose leash. There are no other distractions.
- A new person enters the room and calmly stands just inside the door. That person stays calm and stands tall. He does not call out to Willow or makes any fast movement.
- If Willow starts to bark or become agitated, walk her to the far side of the room and have her focus return to the client. Continue this until she is calm.
- Now, have the other person call to Willow and throw a piece of food near her, but off to one side (i.e. his left). This will require Willow to slightly approach the person, but not in a direct line.
- Once Willow has eaten that piece of food, the person will throw another piece of food slightly closer to him, but off to the other side (i.e. his right). The client can encourage Willow to go for the food, if necessary.
- Next, the person will throw the food closer to him on the other side (i.e. his left, again).
- Continue to repeat the process until Willow is about three feet from the person.
- Now, reverse the process, throwing the food from side to side; farther and farther away from the person until Willow is back to where she started.
- Praise Willow for doing a great job.
What we have done is to allow Willow, under her own power, to approach a stranger and then calmly back off. We used the treats as a distraction to engage in the appropriate socialization. The reason we call this “V=Feeding” is because the person tossed the food in the form of a “V” with the closest point being him and the bottom of the “V”.
We asked our client to repeat this with Willow every time someone strange came to the house. Once she was comfortable with people and didn’t need the food to calmly approach strangers in the home, try it in the front yard or on a walk around Bonita Springs.
We are great at installing your Dog Guard Perimeter Fence and are also great at answering Dog Training questions. Please give us a shout out at Bonita Springs Dog Fence Training Help. Dog training and dog fence information is also available at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Bonita Springs South Florida. You can also gain dog training tips at South Florida Dog Training Blog on our dog training web site at Home Dog Training South Florida.