Kiss it and make it better

small black dog with 3 quills in his nose

Sometimes you run into porcupines but it's still worth running

Have you ever stopped to think about the totally unhygienic practice parents have of kissing boo-boos to make them better? Ever thought about how a little TLC can turn a tight-fisted, red-faced, teary-eyed toddler into a pouty, head nodding, ice cream eating miniature human again? If you live with a fearful dog you should.

I have been living with a 4 month old puppy for the past two weeks. Tooie is a fabulous little dog, showing all the resiliency, tolerance and confidence that make a good puppy a great dog. My dog Sunny, an adult male who grew up in an enclosed area with numerous dogs has a set of rules for young dogs that at times I marvel at and other times cringe about. Overall Sunny enjoys other dogs, he likes to play and after any ritualized displays of just how tough he could be, he switches to Mr. Hyde in a blink of an eye and begs to be chased. Sunny teaches young dogs to take no for an answer and to learn to pay attention to what other dogs are saying-

“I really mean it, you should not come any closer while I chew this bone.”

Sometimes his rebukes are a bit harsh for a small pup and when this happens puppy runs off whimpering and seeks me out. Many social animals seek solace and comfort with trusted friends or relatives when they have been scared or stressed. Humans hug, we pat backs, we whisper soothing words. This ‘social buffering’ does more than just provide momentary relief. By helping to reduce the fear and anxiety the dog is feeling, stress hormone levels decrease. Tooie is learning that sometimes other dogs do things that hurt or scare him and it’s not all that bad. Life goes on. I’m not suggesting that we should allow other dogs to hurt or scare our dogs, but when something happens that frightens a dog it’s ok to offer them comfort and support. It may even make it easier for them to deal with scary things in the future.

When something scares your fearful dog, don’t leave them flapping in the breeze. Do what you need to to get them back to an emotional comfort level. Getting back on the horse is easier when you know you have someone there to give you a leg up.

8 comments so far

  1. J.M. Stewart on

    Right on. We should be a source of calm in a sometimes chaotic world. Just a reminder to other readers, don’t inject extra excitement into a fearful situation. Calm them with slow pets and soft words.

    • fearfuldogs on

      So true. If a person’s behavior is not comforting a dog, it’s not the case that comforting doesn’t work as much as the fact that what the handler is doing isn’t comforting to begin with.

  2. Brianne Villano on

    That baby has the most beautiful eyes. ❤

    • fearfuldogs on

      You could wake up to those beautiful eyes every day if you liked 😉

  3. Amy@GoPetFriendly on

    Completely agree! We expect the same when we’re frightened. A little compassion goes a long way.

  4. cader2010010 on

    Cade completely lacks doggie social cues. Can I borrow Sunny? While shy with places, situations, and people (and terrified of things like flashlights) she is at her most confident as soon as there is another dog on the scene. What they approach, she will approach. The issue is that she can’t seem to read the poor other dog. She is very playful and doesn’t know when the growl or body language means “knock it off little gray fuzzy beast” and pushes too far. Anyone else have people shy dog that gets too comfy with other dogs?

    • fearfuldogs on

      When I have dogs like Cade board with me I might have them on a drag line and never leave them alone with other dogs. When a dog does decide to put an end to an unwanted interaction it’s not always pretty and the dog on the receiving end can be confused, upset and scared. I interrupt the clueless dog whenever I see it’s going too far. Dogs can get frustrated ‘trying’ to get another dog to play, and that frustration seems to spill over into other interactions with dogs. These dogs can become dogs that fight with other dogs easily. Their arousal level is up and when told off they respond in kind. Just some thoughts.

      • cader2010010 on

        That is a great idea – thanks! She gets along so well with even the more “difficult” dogs in our group, I would hate to see her occasional lack of doggie social skills ruin that! Most recently her efforts to get an older labrador to play led to some growling/tension and we humans need to be better at cutting it off before my little pest takes it too far. After several times with a dog she does start to get a handle on who wants to play and who doesn’t, but a fast learner she is not! And then she gets so excited she seems to forget her former lessons anyway. She may be shy, but she sure is happy, happy, happy with other dogs!

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