How to Talk to a Nervous Dog
Even the most confident dogs will feel nervous sometimes. Fear and anxiety are deeply rooted, automatic responses to real or perceived dangers. These triggers will vary from dog to dog (remember, every dog is different), but triggers might include:
- Loud noises
- Other dogs
- Small children
You know your dog best and being alert to their potential triggers will help decrease or prevent their anxiety. So, what should you do when your dog is displaying signs of anxiety?
Showing Love to a Nervous Dog
Dog lovers are sometimes unsure as to what they should do when their dog is nervous, or anxious, because they’re worried they may reinforce the behavior. But, when it comes to fear, anxiety, and stress, there’s a difference.
Let’s think about it from our perspective. Let’s say we’re afraid of small spaces. And, we’re riding in an elevator. If your significant other soothes you while you’re in the elevator, will you stop fearing small spaces? Probably not. But, your significant other soothing you might help, right?
No one likes to be anxious, or scared, and it’s not a reaction that can be easily controlled. Or, really controlled at all. Your dog isn’t acting scared to get your attention. But, how you respond to their fear or anxiety could reduce the intensity of the situation.
Soothing a Nervous Dog
When your talking to your dog, and he is nervous, you should talk softly, and relatively high-pitched. This gets their attention, and may reassure him you’re there and he’s safe.
You should never yell at your dog when she’s nervous or anxious. This will add to their fear or anxiety. And, will likely result in the problem worsening.
Oh, The Treats!
If you’re going somewhere you know your dog will be anxious, or afraid of, bring some treats with you. Treats* will help to re-direct her attention to something more positive… you!
Watch Your Body Language
You’ll hear me talk about body language a lot when referring to canine behavior. That’s because body language is extremely important- for both us and our dog.
If your dog is nervous at home, instead of hovering over him and talking, get down to his level. You may add to his fear by ‘hovering.’ Getting to his level may make him feel more comfortable.
You shouldn’t handle your dog too much, or pet your dog too much, in a fearful situation… unless your dog is looking for you to. Some dogs want you to be right next to them, petting them, comforting them. But, other dogs need a little space when they’re not feeling comfortable. You know your dog the best- so you make this call.
Empathy in Fearful Situations
You should never force your dog into a situation when they’re nervous- whether this be meeting another dog, another person, or being in an unfamiliar space. A nervous dog could become