Meet Watson, a 17-month-old and his new buddy, 7-month-old Bruno.  Watson is a Zen Dog Puppy Kindergarten alum and despite his small size, he was a confident pup during classes.  It was good to see his confidence and socialization skills were still going strong!

Bruno, however, is quite a different story.  He was acting shy and fearful of almost everything — except around his family and his buddy, Watson.

Bruno’s guardians called Zen Dog Training to help manage Bruno’s fearful behaviors. When we met Bruno, he cowered as his harness was put on and yelped and squealed when we took him outside!  After observing Bruno, we offered a desensitization and counter-conditioning plan to help alleviate his fearful behaviors.

For Bruno, the harness and outside walk at once was too overwhelming.  We suggested breaking things down into smaller, more manageable steps.

First, we suggested developing a positive association for Bruno with his harness while in the house.  To do this, the harness is slowly put on over his neck, and he is given high value treats for putting up with it. Slowly and systematically we put the harness on for longer periods as he got delicious treats!

Bruno soon began to enjoy himself and started to form a new, positive association with the harness.  Once comfortable, the harness is finally clipped on and worn around the house for increasing periods of time, all the while being offered more treats.

Next up, was the fear of going outside.  Using similar strategies as with the harness, we recommended taking Bruno to a small, relatively calm environment for gradually increasing amounts of time and again, offering lots of treats and “Coach Talk” to build Bruno’s confidence when outdoors.

Coach Talk is a phrase to describe the calm, reassuring things to say to a dog when experiencing signs of distress and fear.  Remember, when using coach talk, it is important to sound confident and reassuring, not sad or worried.

Applying these strategies, over time, with consistency and patience will ease Bruno’s fears and help him enjoy life with his new family.  For more information on shy and fearful dogs and other training topics, please visit www.zendogtraining.net.

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