Fear behavior

Dealing with fear

Fear - a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

My eyes shot open and Elsa sat up.  A huge boom had awaken us both.  Elsa dove off of the bed and stood at the door.  Thinking it had just scared her I called her back to the bed.  She ignored me and went to look out the patio door.  She stood still, smelling the chilly night air.  I called her again and she went to the door.  So I grabbed my robe and we headed downstairs.  Once down in the kitchen, she didn't want out.  We head back upstairs and she stood once again at my bedroom door.  Something was wrong.  

Her ears were plastered back and her eyes wide.  She was exhibiting fear behavior.  This meant that I needed to chill.  Too often we humans respond to a fear response from our dogs by soothing, touching and holding them close.  Everything that we should not do.  Why?  Because all of these behaviors from us, further the problem in our dogs.  

Dogs are very different from us.  We communicate in different ways; and body language is the best way to talk to our dogs.   What we need to do for our dogs when they are afraid is to show them that there is nothing to fear.  I lay there quietly and called to Elsa again.  She came up and lay close.  I said nothing, nor did I touch her.  I calmly turned over and pretended to go back to sleep.  

She wasn't on the bed long before she hopped off and was back at the patio door.  I let her look out and said nothing.  She lay down on the floor beneath my side of the bed and remained there as I drifted off.  About an hour later I awoke again to feel her up close against me dreaming.  She'd decided it was finally safe and returned to bed.  
Whatever the noise was, it scared the crap out of her.   

It is so important to lead by example in a fearful situation.  Remaining calm is not always easy, but we must try for our dogs sake.  Reacting in a protective coddling manner only makes matters worse for our dog.  It convinces them that there is indeed something to worry about.  

When we lead by example by acting very "who cares" about a particular situation, scenario or environment; we help our dog to deal with frightening things.  We not only give off a calm vibe but we help them to deal with stress.  Dealing with stress can be tough for humans and dogs.  Why give them more to worry about by convincing them that their fear is real?  Even if it is real, I want my dogs to know that I will take care of it.  I will let no harm come to them and I take my roll seriously.  

Actions speak louder than words.  We cannot verbally explain things to our dogs; we must show them through our actions.  I wish I could say to Elsa "that was just a loud noise, don't worry."  I could say it but she will not understand; so I must show her through my actions.  This is essential when dealing with dogs.  

We can be called upon daily to show our dogs the way.  Sometimes minuscule issues arise; requiring us to lead our dogs through step by step, calmly learning.  Life is not always filled with rainbows; it's our job to show our dogs the way.  Hugs and kisses should be saved for times when all is well.   

Bug eyed and staring.

Yesterday I took Elsa to the harbor.  I was not feeling well and thought that some sunshine might just help; it was also our alone walk day.  Luke and I had a short walk at the park and then Elsa and I head out.  When we arrived but before getting out of the car; I could see that there were a lot of dogs present, nice.  I love when Elsa has a chance to do some on leash socializing and the dogs at the harbor tend to be a little more friendly than some places.  So out we got and hit the path to say hi to some folks and dogs.
Notice her tail is up and she is comfortable enough to look around when standing right beside the beast. 

Pulling into the harbor I had noticed an elephant statue that I hadn't seen before.  Once we were on our walk and had rounded a corner we came across another one.  These were new here; how new I didn't know.  But I did know that Elsa was not going to like it.  She'd been to this harbor many times and she had been where this elephant statue now stood.  I knew it was coming so I was ready; and as I had anticipated she barked at the intruder...it just stood staring at her.  It had big bug eyes and was frozen as most statues are.  With the staring eyes and frozen posture Elsa alarm barked once again.

I immediately loosened my posture and approached it.  I bent down and made like I was tying my shoe right beside the scary beast.  The elephant stood on a platform that was about a foot high so I tossed a treat onto it.  Elsa reached out as far as she could without getting any closer to grab the treat.  I knocked on the side of the statue and read the plaque.  These were from the Elephant Parade which aims to raise money to help Asian elephants.    I wondered then how many dogs had alarmed at this elephants presence. 

Many dogs would not even notice this big elephant with it's staring bug eyes; but dogs who are very aware would.  Elsa is dog that doesn't miss a thing so the large staring eyes got her attention immediately.  As I tossed treats onto the platform she started to relax; but she was not going to let her guard down completely.  After all this was a large ominous looking creature.  She trusted it enough to stand beside it alone as I snapped a photo. 

How you react to situations is all important to how your dog will react.  Helping your dog means taking a "no big deal" stance on the situation.  "We don't even care about these things," is how I like to put it.  Keeping the leash loose, your body relaxed and voice calm; you will be able to convince your dog that this scary thing (whatever it is) is not scary at all.  If Elsa would have been younger, needing more work with the elephant I would have stayed and sat there with it until she was good.  But being that she has had a ton of work on these type of things we moved along on our walk quickly after a quick photo. 

Never push, coax or cajole your dog into dealing with a scary situation.  Instead give off the "we don't even care about these things" attitude and you'll be on your way much quicker.