Thursday, September 6, 2012
Because we have a shy and fearful dog, I’ve researched, read and written about the topic a lot in the past four years. Until Frosty came into our lives, all my pets had been friendly, well-socialized and approachable. At first, I thought her fearful reaction to people and places was a result of an especially rough start in life, and that we could “love” her back to “normal.” Those of you with a shy pet can back me up on this – that’s not how it works. Our dog needed help and we weren’t equipped with the right tools or knowledge. It was time to get to work.
As with a lot of animal behavioral issues, opinions regarding how to help fearful dogs vary. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I know what works for us with our dog. Additionally, I’ve met compassionate people with insecure dogs at training classes and dog parks, and had the opportunity to share stories. Feedback from my CANIDAE RPO blog articles How to Train a Fearful or Insecure Dog, Training Games for Shy Dogs and Tips for Walking a Shy or Fearful Dog has been positive, but since writing those articles I’ve gotten comments and emails from people with even more questions.
We’ve read some excellent books in our effort to learn more about working with Frosty. And the more we understand about fear-based behavior, the better we’re able to effectively help our dog. This list isn’t exhaustive, but here are a handful of books I recommend to anyone who becomes a guardian to an anxious, shy or fearful pup.
Scaredy Dog by Ali Brown: This is the first book I’ve read by Ali Brown, but it won’t be my last. Scaredy Dog helped me understand more about Frosty’s fear-based behavior. Brown’s technique is no-force, easy to understand, and based on developing a working relationship with your pet, which is how I work best. What I love about this book is that once you see progress being made, you get a feeling of empowerment. Frosty and I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel like this book helped me get a handle on an overwhelming situation and start making noticeable headway towards a well-behaved, balanced dog. We’ll get there!
Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas: I can’t say enough about this renowned dog trainer and behaviorist who specializes in canine body language. In fact, this book is so insightful I’ve recommended it before. Rugaas has spent most of her adult life working with dogs and believes that “if you want your dog to respect you, you must also respect your dog.” Turid has identified signals and movements that dogs use to communicate to other dogs (and humans) that they have peaceful intentions and mean no harm. She believes that by recognizing and understanding the signals dogs give one another during their interaction, we can learn to communicate with our shy, sensitive dogs in a more meaningful way.
The Cautious Canine by Dr. Patricia McConnell: Another favorite of mine, written by an author, dog trainer, animal behaviorist and zoologist. This small book covers important details that help you identify exactly what triggers your dog’s fearful behavior and helps you understand why you need to treat the fear and not just your dog's reaction to it. The book also outlines an easy-to-follow training program of desensitizing and standard counter-conditioning. I like the booklet because it offers advice that helps you solve minor fear-based problems and prevent major ones.
Help for Your Shy Dog by Deborah Wood: If you have a fearful dog, you know that it takes a long time to make progress and it’s easy to get frustrated. What I especially like about Wood’s book is the inspiring case studies from guardians whose pets overcame fearful, shy behavior and went on to do special things. The book discusses how to help your dog evolve from a fearful pup into a wonderful pet with understanding, socialization, patience and training.
These are a few of the books I’ve read on the subject, but I’m always looking for new ones. Can you recommend any good books about working with fearful dogs?
Photo by Angela Antunes
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell