Feeling Safe

Helping Your Dog Feel Safe

As dog owners, it's our responsibility to help them feel safe, calm, & comfortable in the environments we place them in!

Every dog deserves to feel safe at home and in their family, but sadly that is not true for many dogs. If you have rescued an older dog that has a history of abuse or neglect, helping them feel safe is not always easy. If you're used to training with "Alpha" mentality where your dog is expected to obey your every command, you've most likely damaged their feeling of safety. Do this long enough and your dog can completely shut down and struggle with even the most basic of skills. But I've got some great news for you! It is possible to fix your relationship with your dog and nurture their feeling of safety around you and your family members!

Force Free Training
Training with kind and gentle guidance using directional cues instead of commands that must be obeyed is the first step in repairing your relationship with your dog and helping them feel safe. If you're at this page, you are probably already committed to using force free methods but I want to take a moment to explain how this training method helps the shy or sensitive dog. Some people think that force free, positive reinforcement based training is simply bribing your dog with cookies to do what you want them to do. The truth about force free training is that it is based on communication from human to dog and dog to human. It's that communication that helps to develop our dog's core confidence of feeling safe.

The first step in helping your dog feel safe is to learn how they communicate with you and how can communicate better with them!

Positive Reinforcement Training
While treats are often the easiest way for dog owners to reinforce their dog for good behaviors, there are many other ways to reinforce our dogs. Our dogs choose what is most reinforcing for them and it's up to us as dog owners to figure out what they really love. I LOVE chocolate! While you might be able to entice me with something like blueberry cheesecake, nothing is going to motivate me more to get up and do the dishes then some wonderful chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream. (OR BOTH!) I'm also very social, so the idea of going out to do something with friends is highly reinforcing for me. Azul agrees with my social side and he is easily rewarded with social engagements. Cam on the other hand would avoid social encounters with anyone outside our family and is more motivated by hanging out with me and playing ball.

The second step in helping your dog feel safe is to learn what they love the most and how you can use that to enrich their daily activities.

Reducing Stress
Our dogs can be stressed by a wide variety of things, especially when they are shy or sensitive. Some dogs might be stressed by new environments, new people, new dogs, or even new routines. It's important to realize that over-excitement, while it may be happy is also highly stressing to our dog's day. Whether our dog has a fear triggered response to trigger or an excited, "Got to do that right now!" triggered response to something that pops into their day unexpectedly, there is a release of hormones that often impact the rest of their day. The hormonal reaction to our dog's emotional triggers might only last about 90 minutes, but the stress caused can last far longer for sensitive dogs. We can help them reduce the impact of that stress by reducing the amount of triggers they encounter each day and provide more stress relieving activities. There are some activities that are known to reduce stress such as licking, chewing, & sniffing.

The third step in helping your dog feel safe is to learn about their emotions and their triggers are and plan your day in a way that reduces exposure to those triggers. 

This involves providing a safe distance to observe triggers while you begin to build positive associations around that trigger, team skills to strengthen your communication, and an exit strategy to help you avoid the unexpected triggers that pop up. 

Enjoy this tip from the Confident Canines Class for owners of shy & sensitive dogs.

Environmental Processing
It's been said that our dog's see with their nose! This is because, for most dogs, their nose is easily their strongest sense. They often use their nose to process the environments we put them in. Let's face it, our dogs don't get to make environmental choices very often. As owners, we choose where they live, whether they are inside or outside, whether they stay home or go on adventures with us. We chose the environments our dogs live in. Some dogs do well with environment changes and go practically anywhere, any time and be happy. However our shy and sensitive dogs need to have more adjustment time in new environments. This means when we decide to take them some place new, we need to proceed at their pace, not ours, while allowing them to explore that space. We can adjust the tools we use in different environments for safety, but my favorite way to help my dog learn to process their environment is head out with a harness and longline where we can stop far away from triggering distractions and simply relax while our dog enjoys a sniff-a-bout in that area.

The forth step in helping your dog feel safe is letting them explore the environment you put them in by giving them time to sniff the area at their pace. 

The Helping Fearful Dogs Workshop

This online workshop was designed for dog owners who are going to be starting private sessions with a skilled Canine Coach. However it's also available to all dog owners and trainers who might need a bit of help getting started.

Cost $20 per person!

As dog owners, we often are surprised or caught off balance if/when our dogs start over reacting to changes in the environment. Perhaps it's a car pulling in the driveway, seeing people or other dogs, or hearing sounds such as gun shots but most dogs are fearful of something. When that fear is based on something easily controlled, such as Azul's fear of balloon animals, we can manage the situation quite easily by avoiding the triggering object. But when those fears are based on uncontrollable objects such as other people walking their dogs down the trail or thunder booming in the sky, we need to take a different approach to helping our dogs feel safe. The bottom line is fearful dogs are more prone to barking, lunging, and even biting others. The best way to improve their manners is to help them feel safe. Once they feel safe we can begin training to help them fit better in the family. If you want to learn how to help your fearful dog, this is a great starting place!

If you'd like to learn more about developing a Confident Canine, check out these classes offered by Yooper Paws of Love and the Crazy2Calm Canine Coaches.

The Confident Canines Classroom is designed to help the shy or sensitive family pet become more confident living with their family. It's also great from Service Dogs in Training and Therapy Dogs who are learning to be confident in multiple environments. If your dog struggles with a lack of self control or easily distracted, you will find this class enjoyable for you both.

In this class we will explore and develop these core canine confidences by playing games and doing exercises to help your dog become more confident. All activities are designed to guide your dog through some basic foundational skills that you would normally go through in a basic adult obedience class. However this class is designed to go at your dog's speed taking into account their personality and skill level at the time. That makes this class a possibility for dogs of all ages and skills.

The Confident Canines Coaches Class is also based on playing games and doing exercises to help dogs become more confident, however this class is designed to teach Coaches how to look at each dog's individual needs to set up training sessions that support that dog, both physically and emotionally. 

During this class we will do a deep dive into the 5 Core Canine Confidences beginning with Safety and working our way up to distractions. Then in the final lesson, looking at how they all pull together to build a more resilient dog. Resilient dogs will then spend less time in recovery mode after encountering normal daily activities with a faster rebound speed due to the confidence gained with their owners. This class is suitable for all canine professionals and owners who love studying the science behind dog training.

Register for either of these classes using the code "YPsafe" to receive a 25% discount!

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