Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Why Do Dogs Become Nervous?

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Why Does My Dog Get Nervous?Nervous dogs are fearful of everyday occurrences such as travelling in the car, water being sprayed, visitors entering the home, children playing or household appliances like vaccuum cleaners etc.

Nervous dogs can have an overly submissive and fearful nature in general. Anything and everything seems to spook them, the wind rustling through the trees, the noise of farm machinery, children playing in the park….they become apprehensive of anything outside their comfort zone.

It is most important that the owner recognises their dog's body language so as to anticipate and be able to understand fully the situation which is leading the dog to display fearful behaviour. Signs to look for are:

Crouching down with all the weight transferred to the back legs.
Eyes wide, pupils dilated and whites of eyes visible. (The dog will be looking for an escape route.)
Tail low or even tucked right up high under the belly.
Slightly raised hackles.
Drooling, whimpering or even giving a low growl.

If your dog is fearful, never force it to confront its fears. This process is often called “swamping” or "flooding" and its become famous through the Cesar Millan Dog Whisperer TV Show.

Forcing the dog into a situation that it finds threatening can turn a fearful dog into an aggressive one. The animal becomes even more fearful and loses respect for its owner’s leadership position. It no longer trusts its owner to protect it in the face of what the dog sees as a threatening situation.

Never punish a dog that is fearful. It may APPEAR to work to a novice owner or inexperienced handler as an “on the spot” solution but it will NOT remove the reason why the dog is fearful.

Punishing a fearful dog will in fact negatively reinforce the behavioural problem. Now the dog knows that it was right to be scared. All that happens is that the dog quickly learns not to display warning signals showing it is fearful. The owner now has a dog that will attack without warning when faced with what it sees as a threatening situation. The owner is no longer in a position to control the dog or manage its behaviour.

There are many simple actions an owner can take to boost a fearful dog’s confidence. It may take time but eventually the dog can be retrained to encounter any situation with a relaxed attitude.

If you have a fearful aggressive (nervous aggressive) dog you are advised to enlist the services of a professional dog behaviourist immediately.

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