Fearful Dogs. A Candy Bar Doesn’t Kill the Boogie Man

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of fear cases……probably second only to aggression issues……which are usually caused by fear in the first place! So, what I’m saying is…….fear is a big deal issue for dogs in our society.

Like most people, my heart breaks when I see dogs struggling with fear. I can be swallowed up by the sadness very quickly if I allow myself that luxury. Why do I consider letting deep sadness take me over a selfish luxury? If I allow that to happen, it’s impossible……IMPOSSIBLE….to help the dog. Crying and permitting the sadness to immobilize me, or following the urge to pet and baby talk the fearful dog is for ME. It’s an automatic reaction and it makes ME feel better. It makes me feel like I’ve done something. In reality, I HAVE done something. I’ve verified to the dog that he is a “good boy” for being afraid….that he is correct in feeling something really bad just happened to him. To meet my own needs, I’ve trapped him in a repeating and worsening loop of fears.

For example, first they slip on the wood floor….now they won’t go in any room with a wood floor. Then, a table tipped over in the living room and a lamp crashed and a human screamed, and now they won’t go in the living room. Perhaps their back was turned, and someone started to close the garage door and it startled them. Now, they are afraid of the garage door and anything else that makes a motorized sound similar to the garage door!
I’ve noticed that one fear, left undone, quickly leads to another and another. Soon, the bubble that is the dog’s world gets smaller and smaller and until he basically lying in his bed most the day and his appetite decreases or his aggression increases.

We, as dog owners, need to understand and learn more about fear in the dog mind, and how to correct and prevent it. Here is the biggest mistake I see……humans trying to give dogs treats while trying to coax the dog into the “scary thing.” What?!!! Think about that for a minute. Yes, food and praise can be used in many situations with dogs to further a good feeling about doing something he is slightly uncomfortable about or for learning a new trick. Yes…. tricks and other dog training made up by humans, unnatural to dogs, and asked to be preformed by dogs; should ALWAYS be all positive and never be forced. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about real, high level fear. If a dog is petrified to go down the stairs, anyone that has ever tried, knows that dog will not go down the stairs for a treat! Dogs will not take food when they are at a high level of fear. Period.

Think about it this way……we are asking our dogs to live in a world of our making. Meaning, we ask them to follow rules inside our houses and to stop when we tell them not to run into the street etc. Our world can be a challenging and dangerous world for dogs and we must protect and lead them. They are very capable in their own right and blessed with many natural gifts, but they are…in essence…perpetual two year olds in our world. They need our help to make sense of their environment. They need leadership to show them what things to be afraid of and what things need not be feared or avoided. Now the question becomes, how do you show a young child that they need not be afraid of something? You gently but firmly stand by them and HELP them face the fear. There is no other way.

Most young children are afraid to get on that big yellow bus the first day of kindergarten. So, we help them the best way we can. We tell them we understand it’s scary at first, but it will be ok……AND THEN WE STAND BY THEM WITH POSITIVE ENERGY AND PUT THEM ON THE BUS!!! We may feel scared and sad ourselves, but we don’t show them that….and we certainly don’t allow them to stay home and never attend school!!! Make Sense?

Here’s where I come full circle and tell you why the treats don’t fix high level fear. Trying to “distract” a dog with treats or push treats near his mouth when he is afraid of going down the stairs is like this scenario with human children: Picture the scene: “It’s night time and a young Timmy lays in bed in his dimly lit room. Suddenly, he sits up and screams for his dad, “help me there is a boogie man in my closet!” The dad comes in and says, “Here Timmy, don’t think about that………eat this candy bar!” Then he allows Timmy to run from the room.“ NO!!! This is what should happen: “The Dad comes into the room and tells Timmy there is nothing to be afraid of, that the boogie man doesn’t exist, and then he stays with Timmy and throws open the closet and turns on the light to reveal there is nothing to be afraid of. All children must be helped to face there fears in a respectful, supportive, loving way by their parents and dogs deserve the same thing.

Candy bars won’t kill the Boogie Man, but he doesn’t stand a chance against a respectful Leader willing to LEAD

About the Author:

I’m going to expose myself to you. I’m generally a fairly private person, so this kind of mass, personal exposure causes me some discomfort. However, I’m also a very straight forward person and I don’t shy away from the truth – I’m always happy to share anything I’ve discovered with others in the hope they can also benefit. My greatest desire, my absolute passion, is to change the world for dogs; and in order to do this, I must tell you my story. My journey started, like too many others, doing my best to ride out a very dysfunctional, abusive childhood. How I survived it, how I coped, was to escape into the natural world. I spent every moment I could, observing and caring for my much-loved pets. My family and friends would later remark they rarely saw me without, a cat, dog, guinea pig, horse, goat or rat! In my teens, I became obsessed with researching and planning how I could make things better for animals and protect them from abuse. Adulthood brought a career in real estate and construction and then the gift of two fantastic sons. My focus was on raising my boys to be kind, resilient, happy young men. Through the years, though, I was rehabilitating rescue dogs one or two at a time…the more difficult the case, the more I learned. The dogs were teaching me. I was honing my techniques until I was consistently able to cure dogs and bring back a happy dog mind. Like most moms, I did push myself too hard on all fronts and stress was my constant companion – eventually leading to a decade of various health challenges. I was very busy, and out of necessity, I developed a high tolerance for pain and kept pushing myself forward. Eventually, the universe dealt me a hand that would break me and demand I sit up and take notice. The short version is I was finally diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, a rare condition that delivers excruciating nerve pain in the form of “lightening strikes” in the face. I typical had around 30 strikes a day, which varied based on the number and types of incapacitating, medications prescribed to help me endure…to help me stay alive. Trigeminal neuralgia causes what is generally described as the “worst pain known to man ” and “the suicide disease.” If I tried to eat or speak, I got a strike. If I tried to brush my teeth, I got a strike. If I tried to go outside in the wind, I got a strike. I think one of the most devastating parts was not being able to cry…even crying brought a lighting bolt through my mouth. TN steals your life through extreme physical pain and starvation; and terrorizes you emotionally. After enduring it for 5 years, bedridden for the last six months, it was clear I wasn’t going to survive. The details of what happen next are extremely personal, but I was utterly aware I was living my final few days in this world. I had fought, furiously, to stay alive for my boys, but I felt the last energy from my cells slip away. I had lost my last battle. At that moment, I left most of my physical body and pierced the veil between our world and another world. I was instantaneously pain free and completely at peace; but it was not to be. How I was saved, though, is a whole other story. I will just tell you that I was not allowed to fully leave this world; while simultaneously and without my knowledge, a completely random set of circumstances and people were coming perfectly together to my rescue. By the next day, I was rushed to Pittsburgh for emergency brain surgery, preformed by gifted surgeons I had never met. I awoke from the ordeal completely cured…and with a clear directive. I was the recipient of a miracle; and I was to use this second chance to make the world a much better place for dogs. I realized I had to figure out, no matter how difficult, a way to spread this desperately needed information about the dog mind and heart everywhere! No longer was it just ok to save one dog at a time or help one family at a time. I had to make videos with clear, concise, common sense techniques and information; and get them into the hands of every dog parent. I will never stop working and advocating for dogs until my second chance time here is over. Please join me on this journey and help me spread the word!

One Comment

  1. Helen Leach February 7, 2017 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    My 6 pound poodle, Lilly was put upstairs in her cage as requested by our house guest with a small child that went after dogs… Lilly has always gone willingly to her cage when we are leaving the house, but this day she heard everyone downstairs and started to bark. I was torn as to what to do… I didn’t want the child to go after her and hurt her, but I could hear her distress… As soon as the guests left, I went to get Lilly… She would not leave her cage. I had to crawl in and get her. Since then… she will no longer go outside to potty (which she always did with me )… She races around in a circle then jumps on the highest spot she can perch… She barks if I leave the room until I return to carry her to the room I am in… She does not eat or drink unless I am sitting behind her so she is touching me.., The vet had her on anxiety medicine that has done nothing.,, I don’t want to go to stronger medicine but don’t know what to do!!! Love .., encouragement..praise..is not working!! Please help!!!!

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