Without a doubt, working with a scared dog can be overwhelming. There are times you may question your decision to keep and try to improve the life of your dog. It may be that you need to reassess that choice. Your lifestyle may not be a good match for the dog or the changes you would need to make to accommodate the dog’s needs are not ones that you are able to accomplish. The time and thought that goes into dealing with a fearful dog can intrude into other aspects of your life. Giving up or euthanizing a dog are options that are difficult to consider, but we may need to. We all make difficult decisions in the lives of any of our dogs, from whether to perform certain medical procedures to choosing how our dog’s lives will come to an end. It’s a huge responsibility to shoulder. How much we’re able to push past our own limitations or the sacrifices we’re willing to make, are up to us.
Not only do these dogs require additional physical energy (leash walks, training sessions, general management issues) the emotional energy we put into these dogs can leave us exhausted as well. Not only are we required to manage our dog we are often responsible to manage the people our dog comes in contact with, including the people we live with. We may fee sad, depressed, angry, frustrated, amused and inept when dealing with a fearful dog. We might pity, adore and curse them, in the same day. We are going to have to spend time, money and energy on them.
It can feel like you have to be on your game every minute. The day you decide to introduce your dog to the kitchen is the day the pots slip from the draining rack and crash to the floor. A walk around the neighborhood turns into a nightmare when a car back fires or a pack of children on bikes and skate boards come blasting past. Or a great training opportunity presents itself and you forgot to put treats in your pocket.
Expecting a one year old to speak in complete sentences isn’t realistic. Expecting a scared dog to behave like a well socialized dog isn’t realistic or fair. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have high expectations for what our dogs can achieve, but it does mean that the healing will follow its own course and you can be sure that at some point you’ll be faced with your own inadequacies as well as the dog’s.
When you hit a wall in regard to your patience and energy- take a break. Let him do whatever he seems most comfortable doing and leave it at that for the day (or more). Skip a training course. Call a trainer and schedule an appointment and talk about techniques that might help you move forward. Look for puppies to play with and marvel at their boldness. Sep back and see the positive changes that have occurred, minor as they may be. You can choose to accept that the dog you have is the dog that is living with you today, and it may be the case that you wouldn’t trade him for the world.
For easier reading and more information about living and working with a fearful dog you can purchase a copy of A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog. For an even more complete understanding of how to help fearful dogs consider this online course.