Fear & bum knees

drawing of knee jointOne of the difficult things for people to understand is that fear based behaviors are not often easy or possible to ‘get over’ for all dogs. The idea that a dog will adjust is not always an option. In order for a dog to adjust to a new life, new people, places, objects, situations, they need to have a previously established set point for ‘adjustment’. It’s a place they’ve been before, and know their way back to.

Understanding this seems especially challenging for people who have had dogs, or who are the kind of person dogs like. It’s unimaginable that a dog just wouldn’t ‘come around’ under their care.

Think of fear based behavior as though it was a bum knee. You can do all kinds of physical therapy and with the help of a brace or caution, have a full, active life. But twist it wrong and suddenly you’re limping again. Barring surgery, you’ll never ‘get over’ having a bad knee. Even surgery and healing will leave scars and their impact may not be felt for years, but make no mistake, they’re there and they may get in the way of you ever achieving a full range of mobility.

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8 comments so far

  1. Kevin Myers on

    Fear is one of those things that is both rational and irrational at the same time. When we are experiencing it, it is a completely rational response in our minds. Yet when we witness it in others, it can seem even a silly thing. Why it seems so hard to empathize with our dogs on this matter eludes me; but it does.

    I like your analogy here. And as always, thanks for helping us understand a difficult subject.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Kevin. I am currently dealing with a situation in which the fact that a dog would be ‘terrified’ was passed over with ‘he’ll get over it’. Whether he’d get over it or not is not even the issue. The issue for me is why do something that causes a dog that kind of distress, when it is often our own sense of urgency which is dictating that course of action, if it can be avoided. When dogs are treated this way by people who profess to love them their lack of compassion and empathy is off the charts.

  2. lexy3587 on

    that’s a great way of putting it. definitely something I’ll keep in mind when someoen tells me their dog is/has been a bit nervous, if I’m interacting with them.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for commenting and glad the info will be of use!

  3. Jana Rade on

    Being an anxious person myself, I have full sympathy for fearful dogs.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I think that if people took the time to reflect on their own feelings of anxiety, dread or fear, and understood that a dog likely experiences very similar ‘feelings’ but lacks the cognitive ability to talk themselves down- even people with the brain power to do it have a hard time- they might show dogs more compassion.

  4. Donna in VA on

    Good analogy. I keep saying that my Max is a good dog because I “manage” him properly. It wouldn’t happen all by itself, and it’s not effortless. However by taking situations into account and modifying the environment/routine to adjust, it seems to everyone else that he is a near-perfect dog. We’ll see how he does in January with my sister-in-law keeping him for 3 days / 2 nights – we have to go out of town to attend a wedding.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Good luck! It’s really nice to have other people who we can trust, and our trust, to take care of them.


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