We’d be foolish handing chunks of carrot to a baby with no teeth. If we want young children to eat vegetables it makes sense to start them off with those which are less bitter and easy to chew. When we invite people over for dinner we try to prepare a meal that they will enjoy. Salt & pepper shakers are commonly found on tables so diners can season their food to their own liking. Routinely we assess situations and decide what will make them more pleasant, enjoyable and safe for the people we care about.
When dealing with a fearful dog it can help to think about ways to make the things which scare them, more palatable. Instead of subjecting a dog who is afraid of other dogs to the attentions of a rambunctious dog, find an older, social adept dog who will ignore the dog. Walking on a crowded city sidewalk may be less daunting during the early morning or late evening hours. Car rides might become less stressful if at first they are short and include a trip through a drive-thru window for a burger.
Sunny is more comfortable around people when he is off leash and has the option to move away from them, however he can also gain enough confidence to approach and bark at people. In those situations we practice the behaviors I’d rather he perform, namely moving away from what scares him and sitting quietly. I try to add his favorite spice to any interactions he has with people, either frisbee tossing or running in the woods.
Think about the ways you can make the things and situations that scare your dog more palatable. Lower your expectations and be satisfied if your dog just has ‘a taste’ of what they’re afraid of, not literally of course!