The pandemic has been scary enough already, so this year we’re replacing the fear with cheer and celebrating Wagoween! We partnered with professional dog trainer, Erika Gonzalez, over at From Dusk Till Dog to give pet parents tips on conquering common dog fears. Does your dog run from the vacuum? Does your pup hide during a thunderstorm? Is bath time stressful? We’ve got you covered. This Halloween, let’s crush some fears and get those tails wagging.
Lesson 1: Villainous Vacuums
Let’s make house cleaning less scary. Help your dog overcome their fear of the vacuum.
🐾 Create positive associations. Keep the vacuum off, no movement.
🐾 Teach your dog when the vacuum moves good things will happen for them.
🐾 Get your dog used to the sound but do not move the vacuum.
🐾 Now combine sound and movement. Turn the vacuum on and move it. For training purposes, keep the movements small.
Tip: Be sure to mark and reward with high-value treats like stuff chews and/or their favorite treat. Check out our 2021 Vet-Approved Dog Gift Guide for options.
Lesson 2: Creepy Cars
Car trouble? Get your seatbelts ready! Here’s how to help your dog like the car.
🐾 Approach the car and create positive associations on the approach.
🐾 Now work on approaching, reaching for the door, grabbing the door and opening slightly.
🐾 See if you can get your dog to hop in or hop their front paws on the seat.
🐾 Once your dog can hop up in the car, add some duration with an enrichment toy.
🐾 While your dog is enjoying their enrichment toy, turn on the car, radio, and open windows.
Remember these are beginning steps. There can be a lot that goes into counter-conditioning and desensitization of fear-based issues. These are the foundational steps to get your dog feeling more positive.
Lesson 3: Wicked Weather
Where’s there’s thunder, there can be a scared pup. Help your dog with their fear of thunder.
Proactive Training Steps
🐾 Go online and find thunder sounds.
🐾 Press play and throw a treat to your dog.
🐾 Start to raise the volume each time. If your dog looks uncomfortable go back a step.
Passive Training Steps
🐾 Play thunder sounds at a low volume and then do cool activities with your dog.
🐾 Start to raise the volume and continue playing with your dog.
Tip: You can use this training in real time, if you hear thunder, fireworks or any scary sound. If you feel like your dog is severely stressed to the point where they can’t focus or take food, it is best to consult with your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary behavioralist for additional help.
Lesson 4: Bone-Chilling Baths
Wash away the groom doom. Help your dog overcome their fear of the bath.
🐾 Create positive associations with your dog going into the bath space. No water or bath, this is just to let your dog know good things happen in the bath space.
🐾 Help your dog stay in there. Build up calm behavior. Still no water or bath.
🐾 Get your dog used to the water being on. Do not put the water on them yet, but turn it on.
🐾 Get your dog used to the sensation of a bath. Keep the bath short and sweet, avoiding their head and face.
🐾 In the lathering stage your hands won’t be free, try using a lick mat with peanut butter to treat your dog.
Tip: Baths are slippery, so be sure to give your dog traction which makes them feel stable.
Remember, tackling fears isn’t easy. Be patient. You got this! Just be sure to make time for purposeful practices and training sessions to keep those tails wagging.