black dog swimming with yellow ball in his mouth

During Sunny’s 7th summer at the lake he finally started swimming out after balls.

A trainer friend shared feedback with me that she got from clients who have read my book, A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog. Some were disheartened by how long it took for Sunny to show progress in dealing with the fear based challenges in his life. This was certainly not my intention, to cause people to lose heart in regard to their dogs. But anyone living with a dog with ‘issues’ is either in it for however long it takes, or they’re not. I make no judgement about people who chose not to be. I understand their decision.

Every dog is different. Some, like Sunny, will spend their entire life having to cope with deficits acquired early in their development. This includes development that occurred in the womb. We can manage these dogs to lower stress and anxiety and help them learn appropriate skills for dealing with things or situations that scare them. In many cases we will see increased resiliency and an ability to tolerate more variety. Most animals can continue to learn throughout their life, which means we should never ‘give up’ trying to teach them when we decide to take on the challenge of helping a fearful dog.

Finding support to help you with your dog can be tricky. I have been surprised to discover that people who I would think would know better, and in my opinion should know better, don’t. Fear based behaviors are treated as though they are bad choices a dog is consciously making. I have been blamed for Sunny’s behavior by people who should have an understanding of dog growth and development and how early experiences, or the lack of them, can have a devastating and long lasting impact on the animal.

I hope that for every person living with a fearful dog who reads my book and finds the slow, plodding progress disheartening, there are people who find hope.