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Working with Fearful Dogs by Nicole Wilde

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Date: August 19, 2009

Author: Nicole Wilde

August 19, 2009 - I know a trainer who is excellent with aggression cases. In fact, she loves working with them. Give her a biting malinois and she’s in seventh heaven! But present her with a fearful Chihuahua and this accomplished trainer wants to run for the hills. Like so many other professional trainers, she’s not quite comfortable working with fearful dogs. It is not uncommon for trainers to have concerns such as, “How can I work with a dog I can’t even approach?” “Should I use treats to coax a shy dog to me?” or “How do I know when to push a fearful dog just a bit further, and when to back off?”

Anxieties, fears, and phobias are present in many dogs to varying degrees, and we as trainers must be at the top of our treatment game. Often owners will contact us because of behaviors that are symptomatic of the underlying issue—for example, the dog is growling at visitors. The owner may not even realize the behavior is fear-based. As trainers, we must not only treat fear issues comprehensively and efficiently, but also convey to owners the importance of addressing these issues, and give them the tools to do so in a positive, gentle manner.

I am thrilled that this year’s APDT conference will include a full-day symposium on fear and anxiety. This presentation offers an excellent opportunity for trainers, shelter and rescue workers, vet techs, and others to get concise, up-to-date information from a variety of speakers, each focused on a separate aspect of this very important issue.


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