Conquering fear

"He should just get over it," she said.  I looked at her and asked "what are you afraid of?"  She thought for a second as I looked at the young dog on the end of the woman's leash.  "I'm claustrophobic" she said.  Okay, lets meet at the building on the corner and we'll hang out in the elevator for a while.  Her face turned pale, "what?" she said, and so I explained.  That horrible feeling you have at the mere mention of going in an elevator, that is a fear of yours; it is very real and your body goes through a plethora of fight/flight responses in reaction to it.  The exact same thing happens to your dog when a child approaches.   I could see the light bulb turn on. 

Fear is fear and whether it is rational or not, it is a real fear.  Our dogs have fears and to brush them off as being silly is to fail our dogs.  If your dog has a fear, they need your help.  Not in the form of CODDLING, do not try to soothe your dog's fears away.  But show them that there is nothing to fear.  In other words, being an example for your dog. 

Yesterday as Elsa and I arrived at our walk destination; a man got out of his car with two Briards.  One of the dogs was calm; the other was out of control and going off on Elsa.  Both dogs were black, hairy and large.  She snorted her stress about the situation and I very quickly slipped into my example mode.  I chatted happily "that's a crazy dog, let's go this way."  Getting into my "we don't care about that" zone happens very quickly.  I can call upon it at moment; but it takes time and practice to get there. 

The first thing I do is to loosen the leash; that is if I have enough distance to do this.  That is a big secret to it all, distance.  Elsa kept her eye on the dog but never said a word, except for her snorts which are a cue to me how she is feeling about a situation.  When Elsa snorts, I listen.  

Fear is best conquered by baby steps.  I remember watching an episode of the now famous television "dog trainer."  He was working with a dog who was fearful of a shiny floor.  Instead of slowly helping the dog to conquer his fear; he grabbed the leash and dragged him across.  It was horrific to watch.  I am not a fan of this trainer and his methods.  

Working through fears takes time.  Often our dog will give us an infinitesimal step forward; but if we don't see it as progress due to the size of it, we can miss opportunity.  Every tiny little progress is just that.  No matter how small, it is a step in the right direction.  When you get a whole lot of baby steps it comes together as a large progression to a bigger success.  This is how we help our dog. 

Dogs have fears, just like ours.  Just imagine if someone expected you to "just get over it."