Does your dog immediately roll over onto its back when another dog approaches (this can be another dog in your household or a strange dog)? Be mindful that this is not a “roll over” but is commonly referred to as a “tap out.” Sometimes this reaction only occurs when a larger dog approaches.
Obedience training is a great way to teach confidence. Why? Because it will give your dog something else to concentrate on other than being afraid. It also builds communication between you and your dog and allows you to instruct your dog so that he doesn’t have to decide how to respond to the other dog’s approach or presence. Even making the decision as to how to act can be very stressful for some doggies!
Be sure that your training methods are positive reinforcement because punitive measures can actually be too overwhelming for a fearful/shy dog and lead to a higher level of submissive behavior. This means using praise and really yummy treats. It also means beginning the training in a quiet place without any other dogs present so your little fearful one can be relaxed. This creates a “no scary things” atmosphere and he will associate the learning process with praise and yummy food rewards from you.
If a dog is super stressed, they will not take treats. That is always a good tool for measuring level of anxiety/fear/stress in a dog.
After he’s learned to “watch” and “sit” you can move the show on the road so to speak and go outside – still away from other dogs.
Once Fido has the “watch and “sit” commands down 100%, you can start to use them in the presence of other dogs.
When another dog starts approaching, watch your dog and gauge the distance from the other dog when your dog’s body language begins to change. At that moment, ask your dog to “watch” (so his focus is on you instead of the other dog) and to “sit” so he has another option besides tapping out.
Finally, stand in front of your dog, between him and the other dog, so your dog knows that you control the space and feels safe.
You can also move your dog away, calmly and confidently, when another dog starts to approach, BEFORE your dog reaches the “tap out” stage. After you have increased the distance between your dog and the approaching dog, treat your dog and praise him lavishly until the other dog passes by. This will help change your dog’s thinking from “RED ALERT – there’s another dog” to “YAY! There is another dog! I get praise and treats.”
In time, you will notice that your dog is more relaxed at the approach of another dog and you can say “Hey, lets go meet him!” (Make sure it is a dog that isn’t showing any negative reactivity to your dog and is only displaying signs of being happy to see your dog and wanting to play or meet and greet.)
MOST IMPORTANTLY – BE PATIENT! Fear is one of the hardest things to help a dog overcome and it takes time and patience. If you get frustrated, your dog will know it and will become more anxious, and the cycle continues best på nett.