Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.
- Vince Lombardi
A lot of problems that people encounter with their dog revolve around their dog not having confidence. They are often described as ‘nervous’.
However, it’s worth remembering that not all dogs that are described as ‘nervous’ are genuinely nervous. Some very worky collies are described as nervous, when it is that they work ‘on their nerves’. The workier the dog, the more they need to react to movement or noise. In a working environment, this means they react very quickly to commands and the flock they are herding. In a domestic environment, the hustle and bustle of suburban life the constant noise and movement of traffic can stress them out and make them look extremely nervous. Their heightened senses make lots of things scary…
And so there are lots of breeds that are sensitive; we’ve had Rough Collies who run and nip you even if you do something as innocent as sneeze. Some sighthounds can be very sensitive, and it’s worth remembering that the sensitive hearing dogs possess can make situations we think are completely normal very traumatic for even the most well-balanced dog.
Unfortunately, when a dog looks nervous, reacts in a nervous way or is overwhelmed by the environment around them, it can lead to the dog being wrongly diagnosed with a problem like “Fear Aggression”.
Phrases like that can make your dog sound like a nightmare, when really they are reacting completely naturally. So, let’s explore the reasons that can cause your dog to be scared and how we can help them deal with the world around them.
It’s said that dogs are a ‘fight or flight’ animal. Given a situation, a dog will make one of those two decisions when under stress. When you look at it, it’s an understandable reaction.
If you were cornered by scary looking humans, and were worried for your safety, you would try to run. If that were not possible, you would have no option but to fight your way out. When a human is in this situation and fights their way out, they are lauded as ‘brave’. People pat them on the back, praise their courage and generally see that instinctive reaction as a positive thing. We look at the situation, see it as self defence and see that it is completely understandable.
However, when a dog does it reacts in the same way, it’s often called “Fear Aggression”. When someone tells me that their dog is Fear Aggressive, we always ask them “what does fear aggression mean?” 90% of the time, we find people have no idea what it means. And if you don’t know what it means, how can you solve it?
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