A Cry in the Night – Dealing With Canine Behavior Problems

Many of us had sleepless nights this spring and summer. It’s difficult to sleep with your dog shaking and vocalizing out of fear of the thunderstorm going on outside. It is often difficult to determine what caused your pet to be afraid, and they develop phobias to a variety of things that they may have had little or no contact with. Early socialization is the best way to prevent your dog from developing phobias, but what do you do once your dog starts having a problem?

The first step to helping your dog cope with its fears, is to learn to deal with them yourself. It is very important not to attempt to comfort your dog during these times of stress. Dogs don’t understand the difference between words of sympathy (“It’s okay Sparky, mom’s here”) and reward (“Good boy Sparky, this is how I want you to act every time a big truck goes by”). To your dog, every pat, nuzzle and kind word is a reward and will make your dog more likely to be afraid the next time they are in the same situation. You will accomplish much more by portraying confidence.

Many people find it helpful to desensitize their dogs to fearful situations. This requires the owner to identify exactly how much stimulus the dog can be exposed to without the situation becoming a negative one. Gradually, you can increase the amount of stimulus your dog can tolerate. Remember to always make these positive situations.

If the problem is severe enough, there are products available to help “jump start” the solution. Please contact our office for any advice on training or dealing with behavior problems.