1. cat
  2. cat food
  3. cat mate
  4. cat md
  5. cat sip
  6. cat stop
  7. catit
  8. catmouse
  9. catnip & grass
  10. catswell

4 DAYS ONLY! Save up to 50%

on hundreds of items ~ Aug. 29 - Sept. 1

Save $10 on $60 or $20 on $100

online only now through 9/1 ~ see details

Free shipping

on orders over $49 ~ exclusions apply

You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Proper Socialization For Fearful Dogs

Proper Socialization for Fearful Dogs

Debbie McKnight / Accredited Petsmart Trainer

0
Your rating: None

Lately I’ve seen a lot of fearful dogs coming to class for socialization. Specifically, these dogs are fearful of humans, but rather than display any aggressive behavior, they tend to hide or freeze. As someone trained in reading dog body language, it is clear that the dogs are communicating, “Don’t touch me!” However, because they are not growling or snapping, many owners think that the dog is “OK” or getting “socialized.” Therefore, it seems important to discuss what proper socialization for fearful dogs involves.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of fearful dogs coming to class for socialization. Specifically, these dogs are fearful of humans, but rather than display any aggressive behavior, they tend to hide or freeze. As someone trained in reading dog body language, it is clear that the dogs are communicating, “Don’t touch me!” However, because they are not growling or snapping, many owners think that the dog is “OK” or getting “socialized.” Therefore, it seems important to discuss what proper socialization for fearful dogs involves.

First, and most important, dissuade subjecting the dog to touching by people they don't know before they are ready. In order for the dogs to relax and trust the handler, they need to know that the handler is not going to let anything bad happen to them. While the Pet Parent may not think that petting is a “bad” thing, a fearful dog may. It can be embarrassing for the Pet Parent to say no when someone asks, “May I pet your dog?” but it’s important to do so in order to gain the dog’s trust. 

Once the dog is starting to relax (rather than retreat) when someone approaches, the handler can begin to give the dog treats when someone approaches. Ideally the handler should encourage the person to ignore the dog (no talking to, staring at, reaching toward, or looming over the dog). At this stage, the stranger is still not touching the dog and the handler is treating when the stranger approaches. You should remain at this stage until the dog appears relaxed and looks toward the handler, in anticipation of a treat, when the stranger approaches.

At this point, ask the person to offer your dog a treat. Initially, it would be best if the person tossed the treats to the dog and as the dog gets more comfortable, toss the treats closer to so your dog gets closer to the person. Eventually, if your dog is fairly confident approaching the new person, they could hand treats to the dog. Only when the dog was at a point where he could easily approach a stranger with a relaxed body posture would should you consider allowing new people to pet him. Ask that your dog be stroked under the chin, rather than on top of the head as reaching for a dog can be seen as a threat.

Proper socialization involves positive experiences at a pace the dog can handle. While it may feel like it’s moving along at a snail’s pace, it is important not to overwhelm the dog or ask more than he can handle. With some patience, remedial socialization can make great strides in helping your dog overcome his fear of strangers.

Debbie McKnight is an accredited PetSmart trainer in Hurst, Texas.

For information on PetSmart's Accredited Training, please visit PetSmart's Training website.

 

Click the paws to add your rating:

0
Your rating: None

Comments

26 Aug 2010 12:02 pm

julie45 said:

Thank you for posting your concerns about PetSmart training. Hopefully this will answer some of your questions and concerns.

Our PetSmart Accredited Pet Training Instructors complete a rigorous education in problem solving, canine ethology, genetics, behavior and learning theory, with a curriculum developed by both leading trainers and animal behaviorists, and teach pets a consistent, healthy behaviors using a combination of verbal cues, hand signals and positive reinforcement. We neither educate our trainers on punishment techniques nor condone their use.

Part of the reason that we work so hard on positive training is so that we can affect the dog’s life to negate any fearful behaviors. Every pet has a different background and with proper training a fearful dog can become part of a loving and social family.

I’m concerned by some of the comments in your letter and would like to investigate further. Would you please email me at petcommunity@ssg.petsmart.com and let me know the store location you were at so I can pass the information on to our customer service team to look into this matter further? Thank you

24 Aug 2010 5:52 pm

criticalthinker said:

Wouldn't you advise, as a "professional", to anyone with such a dog, to not even drag the dog into an environment such as /petsmart would present, to begin with? I Don't believe flooding in any case is a very wise idea, especially in a classroom situation, where other dogs and people are present. I have witnessed this being the case way too many times at the petsmart stores in my area. It is obvious the dogs are overly stimulated, highly reactive, and their people are popping them,
jerking, and administering all types of positive punishment onto the dog, while the intstructor either, watches,saying / suggesting nothing, or worse, picks up a water bottle and walks over to spray the reactive, barking, growling, so on, dogs in the face with water, to give even more punishment,and from someone unfamiliar, which will only leave the dog (s) less trusting of anything or anyone novel or new. One particular Area trainer advised the entire class I was observing one evening, to use a citronella spray collar, to stop barking!! And then went on to explain how this trainer's personal dogs had a shock collar used on them.
It was very difficult for me to keep my mouth shut at that point, but I was able to speak with some of the people who were in the class, when it was over. I have witnessed a lot of + P and -R training techniques and methods being used by more than just "several" petsmart "accredited" intstructors. Where is it, these instructors get
their accreditation, and who is responsible for accrediting them?
Persmart advertises using positive reinforcement. Generally along with that, there is also some negative punishment as well. Of course, I wouldn't expect the every day pet store customer, looking to have their dog trained in a pet store environment to begin with, to even know anything about the quandrants, but any who is accepting money from people, under the title of "Dog Trainer", using positive reinforcement, certainly should know what they are, and how they are defined and how they effect the subject and outcome."
But, back to fearful and / or reactive, shy dogs. I am am sure that being a retail business and not being one who's focus is based primarily on the best interest of the dog and the person, taking
purposes probably somethng which is not only practiced, but enforced, for sales. This is the exact reason why people who really ARE professionials speak so poorly about petsmart trainers. And really, it shouldn't be that way. Obviously, petsmart doesn't require very much, if any, experience, when hiring for their training positions,and wherever, whoever or by whatever source it may be, they attribute their "accreditation" from, is not giving them anything close enough to the amount of education needed. So I have to remind some of my colleagues, not to scrutinize the trainers so harshly, but perhaps the company itself.
Does petsmart offer ongoing education financial aid to their trainers, of any sort, or pay for membership to training / behavior associations?
I don't mean to be controversial, however, this particular topic sort of hit a sore spot for me, because of my special intrest in fearful and reactive dogs
Are you anyone who is "high ranking" within the company, who could possibly make a difference?
If, of course, you were even inclined to feel there were need for any changes at all. And, well if THAT is the case, I suppose any further defense of anything regarding the petsmart " $ dog training services", on my behalf at least, would be fairly done. What other possible defense could I give, if the people high up in the company, who Have any say in the area of training,(if that even exists) won't do anything to better their reputation?

You must be a registered user to post comments.

Sign up › or Sign In ›