Palatability

Not much to worry about from this human!

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!

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2 comments so far

  1. Irene on

    Hi,i have read some of your blogs and you have a lot of great information but i haven’t read anything about where to begin with a fearfull pet. i have a german shepard that is scared of everything, noises, people, etc. We take her for walks and she does ok as long as she is off the leash. But i have no idea how to help her overcome her fears. My fear is that she will become agressive, If you have any ideas i’d really apprecite your help.

    • fearfuldogs on

      You are right to be concerned about your dog becoming aggressive. I created the fearfuldogs.com website to help folks like you with dogs like yours. It’s packed with information and should give you plenty to think about. I also wrote the eBook to address working with dogs like yours. Start by getting your head around the concepts of triggers, thresholds, counter conditioning and desensitization. Talk to a vet about behavioral meds that could help you jumpstart the process of your dog learning new behaviors. I dog that is afraid of most everything is suffering. That suffering causes all kinds of physiological reactions that not only can be detrimental to their health, can make it more likely that they are going to continue to repeat responses they have in the past. If you cannot decrease the level of anxiety a dog experiences by managing its environment, medications are a useful tool. They do not cure fearfulness, but along with behavior modification, play and training, can offer your dog some relief and an increased shot at success.

      Once a dog no longer has control over the distance it can choose to be from its triggers, such as when they are put on a leash, it becomes the owner’s responsibility to understand how close is too close.


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