Learning how to calm a scared dog requires that you first understand what he is scared of. If you do catch your dog experiencing any type of fear, you must act immediately to help the situation before it gets worse.
Your dog may become nervous and fearful when facing the following situations:
- The presence of a stranger or something that he feels to be of threat to him
- Hearing of noise that he fears of (such as thunderstorm or fireworks)
- The presence of another dominant dog (usually of bigger size than him)
- Previous unpleasant experience while he is in the shelter
- Being in a new environment
Once you have discovered the source of your dog’s fear, it’s time to start working on how to calm him down.
How To Calm A Scared Dog
Distract His Attention
Distract your dog with something that he is interested in while you are reassuring him. For example, if your dog has become scared of a strange noise coming from outside, you can distract him by playing some calming classical music in the background.
The idea is to distract your dog from the fear and allow him to focus on something else. This may take a few tries until you find something that works on him. (usually his favorite toy or treat will work well).
Using “Conditioning” Technique
This is a great way to get your dog to overcome what has caused him to be scared in the first place. It works by exposing your dog to his fear in a controlled environment.
To make this approach a success, you will have to be there with him during the training to make him calm down.
The idea is to let him learn that these stimuli will not harm him and he does not need to be scared.
Say for example, your dog is wary of strangers. What you can do is to bring him to your yard (a place where he is familiar with) and have a friend come over.
Give your friend some of his favorite treats and teach him on how to use the treat to “grab” your dog’s attention and reward him with the treat when he comes over.
Do this over a period of time and your dog will do away with his fear as he would know that going near to a stranger doesn’t really cause him any harm.
Dogs are very smart animals, and they will quickly learn how to calm down after being conditioned.
Establish Yourself As Pack Leader
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can calm your dog when you have established yourself as his pack leader.
Dogs react strongly to the roles given to them and the way in which their pack structures are set up. This means that he will look upon you for guidance and direction when he acknowledges you as his Alpha dog.
He will depend on you to protect him from any harm as that will be the role of a pack leader, which is to protect vulnerable pack members.
Plan For His Exercise
Exercise is a great way to calm your dog as this will help him to release his energy, keep him tired and be less aroused by his surroundings.
As the saying goes “ A Tired Dog Is A Good Dog” and this couldn’t be more true!
Depending on your dog breed and age, you would need to plan for adequate exercise (playtime) for him daily. For example, a 4 month old dog will need 20 minutes of playtime each day.
Go for some strenuous exercise such as “Fetch” or “Tug Of War” that can easily drain his energy.
Set Up a “Safe” Place for Him
A dog will often retract to a place where he feels is safe and keep him from harm when he feels threatened. This is a natural instinct of a dog. In the wild, this will usually be his den.
You can prepare a crate at home for him to retract to whenever he feels scared and needs to calm down. Keep the crate away from the area where there are many people and your bedroom would be a good choice.
When you show your dog that there is a safe place to be, he will trust you and will calm down more easily.
One of the reasons that your dog is exhibiting fears because he has been poorly socialized. This can happen when you get a puppy from the shelter and have not done the socialization training.
You would need to train your dog to get comfortable with people and the outdoors activities and socialization is the way!
You can try to integrate your dog into society as often as you can. Everywhere you go, slowly introduce your dog to the new environment, people and other pets.
Let him be around with other dogs and become familiar with them.(Of course, during the initial training, you will have to put a leash on your dog and keep a lookout on his reaction).
If you don’t want to go to the doggy center in your area, you can have friends with dogs come to your home to play with him.
In fact, a well-trained dog can often influence your dog to stay calm and be obedient. Your dog will start to pick up the “good” behavior from this well-trained dog.
Quiet Time With Your Dog
Dogs are constantly looking for love and security. If you are not giving both of these to your dog, he will feel lonely and neglected. And a lonely dog can lead to many behavior problems including aggressiveness or anxiety.
So plan your schedule so that you have at least 30 minutes of quiet time with your lovely dog daily.
This is a great time for you to show your dog that you care for him and will help to build his trust on you. He will know that you will be there for him when he needs you! This bonding will certainly help to curb his fear and anxiety.
Just like a kid who feels very safe and secure when he is around with his parents, you will need to make your dog share this same feeling and the way to attain this is to be his pack leader.
Teach Him To React To Different Situations
Your dog also needs to be taught on how to react to different situations so as to better manage his behavior.
If your dog is getting emotional fear on various different occasions, it could likely be due to his past bad experience and you will have to really work hard on getting him back on track.
One of the ways to teach your dog on how to be obedient in public (when around with other people and pets) is through obedience training.
Reward Him For Good Behavior
Don’t ever forget to reward your dog for his good behavior. When your dog has calmed down, give him a reward (could be a treat or a praise) immediately.
Do not delay on the reward as you would want him to associate the reward with his good (calm) behavior.
This will give him positive reinforcement and he will feel good and will be less likely to behave badly.
Never Yell or Punish Him
If you begin yelling at your dog while he is still in the stages of fear, you are going to send him a “wrong” message.
It will be a message that tells your dog that you are getting angry with him and this will only serve to make the situation worse. (He will get even more anxious and fear).
What you should do is to bring him away from the spot and if you are at home, you can place him back in his crate as this will offer him some comfort.
When he has calmed down, you can then work on reassuring him and getting him to be with you again.
Give Him Something To Bite
One way to calm a scared dog that is circling around is to give him something to bite on, such as a rubber ball. This will help him to focus his attention on the ball and “forget” what is causing him to be fearful.
You will first have to take the dog aside so that he can see the ball and play with it.
Help Him To Settle Down
When you first bring your dog back home from shelter, he will naturally get nervous and fear as he is experiencing a new “world”.
You should take the time to give him some basic training and acclimate him to his new home so as to avoid any problems with his fear and anxiety.
During the training, teach your dog that you are the master (Pack Leader), and that there are rules that need to be followed.
If you don’t establish rules for your dog and make him follow them, he will not know what is right and what is wrong, and this leads to him being confused and anxious.
Loud Sound From Thunderstorm or Firework
You might not feel this but dogs are extremely sensitive to sounds. Loud sounds especially from thunderstorms and fireworks could potentially make your dog unrest and scared.
You can make him calm down by playing some background music to “mask” the noise, use his favorite toys to distract his attention or placing him back to his crate (a place that he will feel safe to be in).
Visit A Veterinarian
This can be important because dogs with health issues such as neurological conditions will exhibit behavioral disorders such as fear and shake uncontrollably. Your vet will be able to advise you on the appropriate treatment approaches.
Training how to calm a scared dog can take time. You are going to have to see it through, even if the results aren’t immediately apparent. The more consistent you are, the better your dog will be trained.
Be patient and it won’t take long before your dog gets his confidence and does away with his fear!