Pay Attention!

In order to teach anyone, anything, you first have to get and keep their attention. This is as true for dogs as it is for people. It’s not difficult to get the attention of a scared dog, most can’t take their eyes off you. But that attention is based on knowing where you are, much the same way you’d probably like to know the whereabouts of a large, hairy spider you saw crawling around your bedroom.

If your dog cowers or cringes at the sight of you, that is where you have to begin your work of changing how the dog feels. It’s not doing any good if every time your dog sees you it feels terror. Your best bet in working on this includes a reward your dog agrees is indeed a reward. A pat on the head is not only not rewarding to many dogs, it’s actually something that they’d rather not experience.

Try this-get a roasted chicken, go to a place where your dog can see you, but not too close, sit down, ignore the dog, start eating the chicken (if you’re a vegetarian, pretend to eat the chicken). Pay attention to your dog’s reaction, perhaps the dog sniffs the air for example, begin to toss bits of chicken on the floor toward the dog. Don’t make your tosses large and scary, you don’t even have to reach the dog with the chicken, just every once and awhile toss some chicken while you continue to ignore the dog. If the dog moves towards the bits, keep ignoring the dog, keep eating and keep tossing. If the dog doesn’t go for the chicken, get up and while still ignoring the dog, leave the room.

Wait a bit and then go see if the dog has gone for the chicken bits. Assuming that the dog is capable of moving away from its hiding space, she’s probably gobbled up the bits once the coast was clear. Go back and repeat the process and then repeat it again. It will take time and patience but look for changes in the way your dog anticipates your arrival.

I needed to do this with my scared dog for weeks, so take a deep a breath, exhale slowly, and start paying attention to the attention you’re getting from your dog.

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