If your dog is scared of everything, he may be scared of YOU too. Scared dogs need love, affection and TLC (tender loving care) as much as any human child.
In this post, I’m going to share with you 9 easy tips you can use to help your scared dog overcome his fears and get him to trust you.
To get your scared dog to trust you, avoid showing him your bad emotions, start him on socialization training, make him feel your calm energy, be at his same “level”, avoid direct eye contact, gain his trust and provide for his needs. Show him your love and make him come to you willingly.
Table of Contents
Tip#1: (Start His Socialization Journey)
Most dogs need to learn how to be around other dogs or people. If you have just adopted your dog from the shelter, chances are he is not yet trained on how to interact and socialize with humans. This can make him nervous and afraid.
In order to help your dog overcome this fear of other people, you need to take it slow and introduce him to the world around him one step at a time. The first thing you need to do is to introduce your dog to your family.
Make sure that everyone in your house is aware of your dog’s history and is willing to work with him and give your dog all their love and affection that he needs and deserves.
Finally, you must be ready to reward him with lots of treats and praise when he is progressing well with the socialization training.
Tip#2: (Stop Showing Him Your Bad Emotion)
Your dog lives in the moment and reacts to what is happening now. So if you are frustrated, angry, stressed or tired, there is no reason for your dog to know this.
Your dog is only aware of what is happening right in front of him. So keep this in mind and don’t ever lose your temper or show your stress and frustration to your dog.
Your dog can easily know your emotional state by reading your body language and may start to lose his trust in you when he starts to sense that you (as his pack leader) is emotionally unstable.
So it is important that you establish yourself as his Alpha in the right manner to gain his trust in you and make him believe that he can count on you to take good care of him as the role of his pack leader.
This will help to ease his fear and anxiety.
So what does it take for you to be a GOOD pack leader for your dog?
If you want your dog to respect you as the pack leader, you need to first understand what being a pack leader means.
A pack leader ensures that his packmates are taken care of, receiving food and shelter when necessary. He is also a protector. He will defend his pack from danger and will hunt for food to feed his pack.
One of the ways in which you can show your dog that you are the pack leader is by fulfilling all his needs and mastering the art of leadership.
This art entails that you are able to control your dog by using your body language, words and confident actions.
Your dog will always know what you are thinking and will gauge your level of confidence. If you are not confident, your dog will not look upon you as his Alpha.
By nature, dogs love nothing better than to have someone to teach them to be confident and how to handle new situations. If you want your dog to be confident, you need to act and be confident.
And when you are confident, you can show your dog that you are relaxed and calm and there is no reason for him to be scared. You have all the situations that he is fearful of under control.
Tip#3: (Make Him Feel Your Calm Energy)
Distracting your dog from his scary thing or situation by giving him a treat or a toy can be a powerful method. The goal is to make him focus his attention on you and take his mind off those threatening triggers.
Just keep calm and let your dog feel your calm energy and make him know that you are there to protect him.
Be sure that he notices you are there for him. You can do this by talking to him, petting him, and staying close by.
He will sense your calm energy and will eventually “cool” down. Do not leave him alone until he has fully calmed down and is relaxed.
You see, your dog is sensitive to your “energy”. He can sense when you are upset, nervous, or sad. When you are in this state, he will be affected by it. He will also be nervous, anxious, fearful or destructive.
So your state of emotion is extremely important for your dog. Keep calm to make him believe that you will take good care of him and keep him from any harm.
Over time, this will build his trust in you!
Tip#4: (Let Your Dog Come To You Willingly)
Give your dog time to adjust to you. Don’t pet him or talk to him until he has calmed down. Let him come to you. Don’t force yourself on him.
You need to give your dog the time he needs to adjust to your presence. Make use of your calm energy to slowly work your way up to interact with him.
Do this by spending more time playing with him, and at the same time, doing whatever you can to keep your energy as calm and relaxed as possible.
Offer him a reward whenever he makes his way to you willingly and this will help him to associate that GOOD things will happen when he comes to you.
Through this positive reinforcement, you will gradually earn his trust.
Remember, it’s the tone of your voice that is most important. Do not sound as if you are yelling or shouting at him. Keep your tone firm and calm.
Tip#5: (Avoid Direct Eye Contact)
Avoid any direct eye contact with your fearful dog. Dogs often view direct eye contact as a form of challenge and if your dog is already in a fearful condition, that could worsen his mental state.
Think about what your fearful dog is feeling. He is NOT feeling confident, relaxed, or happy. Rather, he could be feeling stressed, anxious, or fearful.
Fearful dogs are often nervous, jittery, hyper and always worried or concerned about what might happen next.
So the best way is to AVOID doing things that may make him feel restless and fearful.
This includes direct eye contact, grabbing your dog or forcing him to do something that he is feeling uncomfortable with. It’s going to backfire.
Just keep calm and show your dog you mean no harm to him by going towards him from the side and not direct head on.
Tip#6: (Be At His Same “Level”)
Get to his same level and keep your voice calm and soothing. Sit on the floor if you need to, so that you don’t tower over him.
It’s very important that you remain calm and in control.
Don’t move too quickly as he will interpret an abrupt move as a threat and could trigger his anxiety.
Tip#7: (Show Him Your Love)
All dogs love to be petted as this action makes them feel relaxed and calm down. It also helps to build a strong bond between you and your pet.
So where should you pet your dog?
If your dog has a soft inner ear, just pet the ear gently. If he has a harder outer ear, you can pet all over the back of the ear and then down the sides of his face to the chin.
You can do this with one hand, or with both hands. With one hand, you pet the ear gently with one hand while you pet the face gently with the other hand.
If the dog seems to enjoy this, then you can try massaging the ear with your fingers. Massaging your dog provides a calming effect on him.
As you massage, you could also try praising your dog “what a good boy he is!” in a calm and soothing voice.
This certainly is going to be a pleasant experience for your dog and will help to foster his trust in you!
Tip#8: (Build His Trust Through Game Playing)
Play games with your dog to build the bond, trust and confidence.
Try hiding treats in different places around the house to encourage him to look for them. You may need to start with treats that your dog is familiar with. You can also hide treats around the yard and play games to encourage him to go and find them.
Use your dog’s name when you give the command to search for the treat. As he starts to learn the game, hide the treats in more challenging places so that your dog will need more time and effort to find them.
When your dog is getting the hang of the game, you can try making the game a little more challenging by hiding the treat in a place where he has to solve a puzzle to get it.
This game is fun for both you and your dog, and using treats as a “lure” is certainly going to make your dog love this game and hope for more.
So teach him to play hide-and-seek in the house now to start building his confidence and trust in you.
When he begins to acknowledge you as his alpha, he will feel safe to be with you, and will show his submission to you by exposing his belly.
Tip#9: (Gain His Trust By Providing Him A “Den”)
Give your dog a personal and secure place that he feels comfortable with. This is what a pack leader will provide for his member – a safety den where he can safely sleep and eat without fear.
When you have prepared that “den” for your dog, you will get his trust and he will know that it will be the place where he would be away from any threat and danger. He will feel calm and at peace whenever he gets in there.
As for this so-called “den”, nothing works better than getting him a crate and making it cozy for him. Of course, to make your dog love the crate and view it as his den, you would need to do some crate training for him.
Once he is crate trained, he will see the crate as a “safe and secure” place to be in whenever he feels scared.