We are all afraid of something. And like us, a dog’s fear range can be from merely concerned to full panic. Dog’s who cannot cope with their fear will bark This bark is high pitched and comes in a series of hysterical barks with a high probability of howling. The dog will also be producing adrenalin and he will be restless, pacing, scratching on doors. If they are are in full panic mode they can destroy your home.
What causes this type of fear? Commonly it is being left alone and confined or tied up, sounds, threatening behavior, anger in the dog’s home, and a myriad other causes. Primarily, these fears manifest as the dog’s inability to cope.
What can we do about fear barking? 1) Avoid what he is afraid of presuming that you know what his triggers are. And there is a process of introducing him to the triggers in such a way as to teach him to not be afraid. 2) When the dog has a bad reaction to a trigger, don’t try to talk to him or pet him. It is important that you stay calm and nonreactive. 3) Don’t force a dog to get into a situation where he will be fearful. Give the dog a choice to retreat if that is what he wants to do. 4) Get between your dog and the ‘scary thing’. This can be quite successful because it is a behavior that dogs exhibit on their own, 5) Proactively steer away from a threatening situation. This creates more distance between your dog and the trigger. Dog will do naturally create distance to avoid conflict. 6) Teach coping skills gradually. Exposing a dog to a threat with no warning is called ‘flooding’ and only increases the dog’s stress and fear level. Let him investigate the world at his own pace but keep him safe. 7) Counter-conditioning – using praise, food or other rewards in the presence of a trigger can be an effective method.
Helping, guiding and training a dog to not be afraid will take time. The more things the dog is afraid of, the longer it will take. I’m saying it can take weeks, months or years of effort. What we need to understand is that the dog is not afraid on purpose – there is a reason why he is afraid. I strongly recommend you have professional help through a trainer, a behaviorist and your vet. The step by step process requires care and knowledge. Get the training you need to successfully help your dog through his issues. There is a Facebook group, Fearful Dogs, that can be source of information and guidance as well as support. It is an site, managed by a professional that promotes force free coping methods for fearful dogs.
Tomorrow I’ll write about “guard barking”. Talk to you then.