When you are scared, how do you respond? If someone tried to steal your car, would you put up a fight, would you speed away or would you freeze? In that moment, you would not be using your “rational”, “thinking” brain, you would be in “survival mode”. You may have the same reaction to a snake, spider, needles, or anything else that you are afraid of. Did you know that dogs will respond in much the same way when they are afraid?
Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize when our dogs are having a fearful reaction. The dog that “fights” when it is afraid (growls, barks, lunges) is labeled “aggressive”. The dog that runs away is called “skittish” and the dog that freezes can be called “lazy” or “stubborn”. Once we recognize that these dogs are experiencing fear, we can start looking for what is triggering the reaction. At that point we can work on removing the label and begin truly helping the dog.
In many cases, these behaviors can be changed but it is important to remember that these behaviors are a reaction to fear. It is critical that you are patient and use positive, force free techniques to help them. When looking for help, find a trainer or behaviorist who works with fearful dogs is completely force free.