If you’ve ever had a fearful dog, it can be heartbreaking and sometimes, scary. I adopted a dog named Sampson a number of years ago. He was a stray, found on the streets of Chicago. He had a large scar on his head and a crooked jaw, probably from being hit by a car. My vet felt he probably had a closed head injury because he later developed a condition that caused seizures. He was a small dog and I cannot imagine what he went through. So his fearful behavior was totally understandable. I spent a lot of time gaining his trust. And when it was just the two of us, he was completely normal. He knew that I had his back. Where we ran into trouble was when he was confronted with a new person or strange situation. Then, he was unpredictable. He bit a couple of people and I had to be on guard with him at all times. I worked with a behaviorist, who in the end gave me the best advise. She said that I had a nice big fenced yard, he had dog friends in my other two dogs and really had no reason to ever leave my house. So she encouraged me to set him up to win by just leaving him home. And if I had company, crate him. In the end, that worked and he got to just be Sampson. So many people think they can push their dog through fear. But fear is an emotion, not a behavior. It is very hard to change a primary emotion. So instead of trying to change it, support them. You’ll get a much better outcome for you and your dog. 

Article Written by Diane Hansell, Re-Published with permission by Pet Pantry in Harbor Springs