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Can Dog Training Help with Your Dog’s Fear of People?

By Jason Wright

July 14, 2023

As a pet owner, it’s essential to work with your dog to ensure that they lead a happy, healthy and full life. However, this can be challenging to complete when your dog struggles with certain fears and anxieties, such as the fear of other people.

While difficult and frustrating, it’s important to take the time to work with your pet and understand the underlying causes of its fear of people. With this information, you can devise appropriate rehabilitation training strategies to help them overcome this anxiety. 

In this blog post, we will explore the reasons dogs develop a fear of people, examine its impact on their lives, and provide practical training tips and techniques to help alleviate their anxiety. By employing the right guidance and methods, your dog can become more confident, relaxed, and capable of engaging in positive interactions with people, allowing them to enjoy a happier and fuller life.

Signs that Your Dog Has Fear or Anxiety Towards People

As dog owners, you’ll find that it may not be immediately evident whether your dog is fearful of people. However, certain signs and behaviours can provide important clues. Here are some common indicators that your dog may have a fear of people:

Avoidance: Your dog may actively try to avoid contact with people by hiding, cowering, or retreating when someone approaches. They may seek out hiding spots or attempt to distance themselves from unfamiliar individuals.

Excessive Barking or Growling: Dogs with a fear of people may display aggressive behaviours such as persistent barking or growling when someone is nearby. This is often a defensive response aimed at creating distance and protecting themselves. Though some may think their dog is showing signs of aggressive behaviour, truth be told, they may be showcasing signs of fear.

Trembling or Shaking: If your dog shows signs of trembling or shaking when in the presence of people, it can be a clear indication of fear or anxiety. This physical reaction reflects their emotional discomfort and unease.

Ears Pinned Back: Dogs may flatten their ears against their head as a defensive gesture. This posture is often accompanied by tense body language and a lowered head - indicating fear or anxiety.

Tail Tucked: A tucked tail is another common sign of fear or anxiety in dogs. If your dog's tail is tucked tightly between their hind legs, it suggests they feel threatened or uncomfortable.

Lip Licking or Yawning: Dogs often exhibit stress signals such as excessive lip licking or yawning when feeling fearful. These behaviors serve as calming signals, attempting to diffuse the situation and alleviate their anxiety.

Freezing or Stiff Body Posture: When confronted with their fear, some dogs may freeze in place or adopt a stiff body posture. This is a defensive response, as they try to make themselves appear less threatening or vulnerable.

It's important to note that every dog is unique, and their reactions may vary. If you notice any of these signs or suspect that your dog may have a fear of people, it’s important that you don’t neglect these symptoms and either move forward with training techniques or consult a trained professional to gather more information and understand the next steps.

Understanding the Causes of Your Dog's Fear of People

Several factors can contribute to a dog's fear of people, and it is important to take the time to identify the underlying cause to tailor the training approach accordingly. 

Here are some common reasons why dogs may develop this fear:

  1. Lack of Socialization: Dogs that have not been properly socialized during their critical developmental period may feel uneasy around unfamiliar people. Socialization plays a crucial role in helping dogs feel comfortable and confident in various social situations. If you have a new puppy or dog, it’s important to note that socialization should always be done in a controlled environment.
  2. Negative Experiences: A traumatic experience, such as a dog attack or abuse from a person, can lead to a lasting fear response. Dogs have remarkable memory and can associate certain stimuli with fear and anxiety, causing them to react defensively in similar situations.
  3. Genetics and Breed Predispositions: Certain dog breeds are more prone to fearfulness and anxiety. Genetic factors can contribute to a dog's temperament and its ability to handle social interactions. When inquiring about adopting a dog or purchasing one from a breeder, it’s important to ask questions about the dog’s genetics and family history to understand what kind of dog you’re bringing home.

Training Tips and Tricks for Helping Your Dog Overcome Fear of People

With patience, consistency, and proper training, you can help your dog feel more at ease around people. Here are some training tips and tricks to assist you in addressing your dog's fear or anxiety:

Gradual Exposure: Start by exposing your dog to people in a controlled environment. Begin with individuals who are calm, patient, and understanding. Allow your dog to approach at their own pace and reward them with treats and praise for any signs of relaxation or positive behavior.

Counter-Conditioning: Pair positive experiences with the presence of people to help change your dog's emotional response. Use treats, toys, or other rewards during encounters to create positive associations. Gradually increase the level of interaction and reward your dog for calm behaviour.

Desensitization: Gradual exposure to people and controlled environments can help desensitize your dog to their fears. Begin with distant encounters and gradually decrease the distance as your dog becomes more comfortable.

Professional Assistance: Consider seeking help from a trained expert who has experience in working with fearful dogs. They can provide valuable guidance, personalized training plans, and additional techniques to help your dog overcome their fear.

Remember, training takes time and consistency. Be patient with your dog and avoid forcing them into uncomfortable situations, as this may worsen their fear. Celebrate even the smallest progress and continue to reinforce positive behaviours.

The iTK9 Way: Helping Your Dog with Their Anxiety

As a pet owner, it’s crucial that you take the time to work with and properly train your pet. This allows your dog to overcome their fear and anxiety, building a solid bond with you and your family, and living a happier life.

If you need help working with your pet or need help figuring out where to start, our trained professionals can help. They fully commit to working with them through behaviour, obedience training, and continued learning safely and effectively. 

We do the hard work for you to attain a happy home and a healthy relationship with your pet.

Included in all of our programs are the following;

  1. In-Person Learning: Midway progress training video, two go-home lessons.
  2. Online Learning: Owner education course, instructional training videos, iTK9 member community, e-books & additional training resources.
  3. Owner Support: Photo updates of your dog training with our team and access to our team for questions & support.

Contact us today for more information on our programs, including Board & Train.

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