Question of the Day: How do I know if I’m pushing my fearful dog too hard in training?

fearful dog

Question of the Day: How do I know if I’m pushing my fearful dog too hard in training?

This is a challenging question to answer, because every case is so different! We specialize in building confidence and relationships with fearful dogs, so it’s one we can help you answer! If you have a fearful dog, how do you know if the training you’re doing is pushing too hard, not hard enough, or just right? Here’s a mini blog on how to know!

Know The Basics

Before you start training with a fearful dog in situations where you think you’ll be pushing their comfort zone, start training IN their comfort zone! Start training some basic commands like come, sit, stay, down, and place (sitting on an object) at home or where your dog is most comfortable. Make this really light, really fun and really rewarding for your dog! Only spend 5-10 minutes at a time doing training, a handful of times per day, until this practice is easy. Introduce some small distractions slowly, like watching neighbors go by outside or you or other family members moving around, moving away, and causing distracting noises. Keep doing that until everything you try is just too easy for your dog!

Build On The Basics

pushing a fearful dog in training

Once you have the basics down, start taking small adventures with your dog to expand their comfort zone.

For some dogs, you may not have to venture further than your front yard. If your dog is still engaging with you, keep pushing their comfort zone a little bit at a time. If your

dog has stopped engaging with you, won’t take treats, can’t hear you, you’ve pushed too far outside their comfort zone and they’ve shut down. You want to operate in the space between their current comfort zone and the line where they shut down. When shut down, dogs are in the instinctive part of their brain, where their freeze/flight/fight response takes over. No learning, relationship building or confidence building happens in that mode. We want to keep dogs in their actively engaged, logical, reasoning and thinking part of their brain – that’s where the magic happens!

Need Help With The Basics?

Contact us about doing some lessons if you get stuck on any of these things or have any questions! We specialize in helping fearful dogs build confidence and giving unsure owners the tools they need to help their dogs!