Persistent dog anxiety and fear

Pawfessor Dion,

I have a two-year-old Pomeranian who is afraid of everything; and so worried about things falling on him. Although since I’ve had him (about one year), nothing has fallen on him. He even approaches his food dish as if a snake will attack at any minute.

Drinking water is the same, he is always prepared to run away. I have tried to show calm and assertive direction and a matter-of-fact attitude. Is there anything more I can do?

Alice Jackson

Read the Pawfessor’s advice below

Dear Alice,

This sounds like a self-esteem problem, so you must approach it delicately. We want to challenge the dog physically and mentally with things like obstacle courses, busy environments, and any situation in which the dog can get feedback from other, more confident dogs. I once worked with a dog named Luna, who was afraid of everything. Even the wind scared her; she would come into a room and see “ghosts.” Every part of her would be on hyper alert – her nose, her eyes, her ears – and everything would make her afraid. I rehabilitated her by helping her self-esteem to blossom, and that’s all about exposing the dog to many different situations.

Helping a dog build self-esteem is a very, very long process, and not nearly as fast as aggression rehabilitation. You have to build confidence slowly, and the way you build it is by helping the dog to repeatedly accomplish small goals. Practice obedience training, practice obstacle courses; they don’t have to be champions, but they have to go out and do it. With every success comes a little more confidence.

You have to be thinking about that rehabilitation, and about training yourself just as you train your dog. To do that, YOU have to have a good role model. The role model will guide and ensure that your dog is always getting the best out of you. Remember, it takes time, dedication, and patience above all else. Good luck.

Stay calm and committed,

Pawfessor Dion

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