Agility Dog or Scaredy Cat Dog
Body size has no bearing on your dog’s fear level or fear factors. Some situations scare a dog and no two dogs are exactly the same. Some fears can be breed related due to the job the dog was intended to perform. But all dogs are subject to all fears including ear of loud noises, new situations, or strange items they come upon.
What makes matters worse for some dogs is that their signals may go unnoticed unless you watch closely. Not all fearful dogs slink around with their tail between their legs. In fact, many dogs become fearful in crowded places such as agility trials and send simple signals you can learn to read.
You may notice your normally bold dog needs to be coaxed through the crowd as he walks slower than normal, looking around him frequently.
A more obvious signal that your dog is uncomfortable is clinging to your legs as you move or stand still.
Aversion to request you make which your dog normally does without hesitation, such as coming out of his crate at the event can be a sign of stress. He may also cower in his crate.
If your normally friendly dog turns his head or shies away when people try to pet him, he is trying to say he is stressed.
Some dogs will refuse treats, even the super tasty ones, or refuse their favorite toys as a way of saying they are uncomfortable.
If you find yourself with a scaredy-cat dog in place of your normally happy-go-lucky pup, don’t fret you can turn them around. It will take time and patience from you as well as the help of others and their dogs.
One way to start your dog on the way to recovery is to enroll in obedience or beginner agility classes. A structured class will keep your dog focused on you and the work instead of the other people and dogs. Just be sure to tell the instructor well before the first class what it is you are working on with your dog so they can help you and not put you into situations your dog may find overwhelming.
Another side effect of structured classes is that it forces you to work with your dog and both classes and work at home will build your dog’s confidence as well as your partnership. Most trainers also offer a walking class that takes a group out and about. You can do the same thing with friends and neighbors that have dogs your dog likes and that are confident in social situations.
However you approach taking your dog out and about remember to start small and just do a little at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm him and make him more afraid. Start by walking your dog in a park or a local school where children are playing and there is some noise and you can stay a distance away.
At a distance your dog is not showing concern, start playing games or practicing your obedience. Be sure to stay upbeat with plenty of tasty treats as you slowly move closer to the distraction. If you are at a park, keep an eye on the kids as you don’t want them running up to your dog and scaring him. Simply state your dog is working and cannot be pet at that time.
Once your dog is good in large open areas you can try walking him along the sidewalks at your local strip mall, near a busy store. Don’t approach strangers as they may be afraid of dogs. But if people are interested in meeting your dog and your dog is ready, show them how to properly greet your dog. If your dog shows any aversion and the person is willing, give them a treat to feed your dog instead of petting them.
Once your dog is good in open areas you can try taking them into a pet store that allows dogs and have the employees greet him and give him treats. This is a good way to meet strangers on a limited basis so it is not too much for him to handle. Gradually go to different areas with increasing activity, noise and crowd levels. Soon your dog will be stepping out with his head held high, ready to greet the world.
One word of caution, don’t take any dogs but especially scaredy-cat dogs to any outings where there might be fireworks or other loud, unexpected noises. Also, be sure to keep your dog on leash at all times. You don’t want him to bolt away from you.
Have fun and good luck!