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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys, this is more about curiosity, but I wonder is it really true that we should not give affection when a dog is afraid/nervous, as we would be nurturing that state and intensify it?

In the past, I've always tried stuffs like doing a calm and gentle low noise like "shhh" when massaging/petting dogs slowly/lightly in order to calm them down, and it does seem to make them more confident in the end.

I know that we should not give affection when they are aggressive or doing something that should not be encouraged, but I think that calming an animal that is afraid isn't the same. What do you guys think? :)
 

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I agree with you:) I thought you shouldn't scold them or tell them off, as it will make them more afraid and nervous.
 

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Not sure what you are talking about here...can you give an example? Like, are you doing this for vet visits, during people visiting, everyday? If a dog is nervous or not comfortable with something you shouldn't try to soothe, rather you should remove your dog from the situation..
 

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Its ALWAYS good for the human to be calm and gentle, particularly if the dog is afraid.

Manage the situation to reduce the dog's fear/stress. For example take the dog out of a situation that is upsetting... away from the scary other dog, scary person etc. Then work to slowly help your dog get used to these things by positive associations such as giving treats when the scary thing is nearby.

Keep your dog "under threshold" so he/she does not get to the point of needing to be aggressive.

Hope that helps some.

Yes, if you gave us more specific info we could be more useful to you. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hmm there's no specific situation here, but I was just curious since I've read/heard about not giving affection when dogs are afraid from different sources (online, tv shows). :)

But the situations I'm wondering about are for example, when a dog is afraid of some object (hmm washing machine for example), thunder or person, or afraid of being brushed or having nails clipped, without showing any kind of aggression but just trembling or trying to go away from it.

For example, when a dog is afraid of someone or something but is not aggressive or overreacting, I would try to hold the dog still and do a gentle low voice "shhh" while massaging him gently and slowly, while having another person/object approaching slowly (letting a dog sniff it is also good). I don't think that I would be nurturing fear in this kind of situation, but rather building the dog's confidence and letting him know that it's alright.
 

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Hmm there's no specific situation here, but I was just curious since I've read/heard about not giving affection when dogs are afraid from different sources (online, tv shows). :)

But the situations I'm wondering about are for example, when a dog is afraid of some object (hmm washing machine for example), thunder or person, or afraid of being brushed or having nails clipped, without showing any kind of aggression but just trembling or trying to go away from it.

For example, when a dog is afraid of someone or something but is not aggressive or overreacting, I would try to hold the dog still and do a gentle low voice "shhh" while massaging him gently and slowly, while having another person/object approaching slowly (letting a dog sniff it is also good). I don't think that I would be nurturing fear in this kind of situation, but rather building the dog's confidence and letting him know that it's alright.
YOU are on the RIGHT track! Don't listen to the TV shows that tell you to be harsh.

I would also suggest that you allow the dog to approach the scary washing machine in his own time. Give him DELICIOUS TREATS in association with the scary thing. This will help him to get over his fears. :)

Here is a video showing how to get a dog over fear of nail trimming. In this case the dog was acting aggressively out of fear, but its the same procedure even if your dog is just shaking in fear, but not trying to bite.

 

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In the situations you described you use counter conditioning, no need to pet and "shhhhhh" a dog who is afraid of an object ;) There is a lot on counter conditioning on this forum :) if you get the urge to read up on it I would do so!
 

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it is definitely ok to comfort your dog when it is afraid ;) keep in mind that dogs aren't always comforted by the same things as humans/what humans expect them to be comforted by... following the counter-conditioning techniques suggested above is likely to yield better results, faster, than just trying to pet/talk to the dog to calm it :)



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My dog is afraid of the dog brush. I've been doing counter conditioning. I don't pet or shush him then, but I did find that I was doing just that the time he got tangled in his lead and fell out of the car. That was about soothing me though because I panicked!

I like shushing and stroking them though. They may not understand it but it's a mutual situation - dog and human learning to understand each other - not just us learning to understand them. As long as we're doing the things that also work for the dog, being 'human' about stuff seems perfectly normal to me!

Oh and the brush stuff - very funny. Very much like this.

 

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Discussion Starter #10
What is counter-conditioning? I'll take a look soon. :)

Yesterday night, my pup heard loud thunder sounds for the first time, and it was funny lol. At the beginning, he barked to it but then he just went bellow our bed! Only when the thunder ended that he came out and went to his bed slowly.
 

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The video above mine explains, sheep.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I see, I'm still at work (proxy blocking videos) so I will see the video when I go home. :)
 

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I like shushing and stroking them though. They may not understand it but it's a mutual situation - dog and human learning to understand each other - not just us learning to understand them. As long as we're doing the things that also work for the dog, being 'human' about stuff seems perfectly normal to me!
though i don't disagree with you on doing what works, you have to be careful here ;) people who don't read dog body language very well and assume their frightened dog wants to be pet, may be getting a "shut down" dog rather than a calm one. your dog is already trying to understand you... they sorta have to, but that relationship doesn't always work the other way around... humans make a lot of strange assumptions about dogs/dog behavior based on their own expectations...



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Yes, I want to echo what Fawkese said. I used to think dogs loved to be cuddled face to face, sorta smothered with love. Then I got a dog for whom this was clearly frightening. He would kind of sit there very still and finally I realized he was scared of what I thought was a good thing.

Humans are primates. Dogs are canines. What is amazing is how much we do understand each other, considering how different we are.

Truly, watch your dog. Learn about "calming signals." There's a sticky in the behavior section on this.. ;)
 

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though i don't disagree with you on doing what works, you have to be careful here ;) people who don't read dog body language very well and assume their frightened dog wants to be pet, may be getting a "shut down" dog rather than a calm one. your dog is already trying to understand you... they sorta have to, but that relationship doesn't always work the other way around... humans make a lot of strange assumptions about dogs/dog behavior based on their own expectations...
True. I'm coming from the point of view of someone who has taken time to learn about how my dog is communicating with me and is open to learning lots more. I think there are lots of opportunities for being 'human' around our dogs, just as there are lots of opportunities for being 'doggy' around them.

Just to check, if the dog is making my face and ears soaking wet, I can be fairly sure that he's neither calm nor shut down? I know he wasn't thinking, 'Hey, you saved me from the bad tangled lead! You're my hero!' but maybe it's just 'hey, I'm pleased to see you and I'm glad I'm not tangled up any more'?
 

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personally i believe as an owner you need to be calm and confident, if you're touching and talking to your dog when its frightened, you are just praising the dog for being frightened and he will learn thats what to do. if you simply ignore him then he should eventually calm down. if its in the house it might be worth getting a adaptil/ DAP plug in diffuser. it worked wonders for my german shepherd who was afraid of fireworks.
 

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personally i believe as an owner you need to be calm and confident, if you're touching and talking to your dog when its frightened, you are just praising the dog for being frightened and he will learn thats what to do. if you simply ignore him then he should eventually calm down. if its in the house it might be worth getting a adaptil/ DAP plug in diffuser. it worked wonders for my german shepherd who was afraid of fireworks.
you cannot "praise" a dog for being frightened... it doesn't really work that way ;)

patricia mcconnell says it better than i can:
Reducing Fear in Your Dog | The Bark
We’ve been taught for ages that trying to soothe frightened dogs just makes them worse. It seems logical, in a cut-and-dried, stimulus-and-response kind of way. Your dog hears thunder, he runs to you and you pet him. Voilà, your dog just got reinforced for running to you when it thunders, and worse, for being afraid of thunderstorms in the first place. But that’s not what happens, and here’s why. First, no amount of petting is going to make it worthwhile to your dog to feel panicked. Fear is no more fun for dogs than it is for people. The function of fear is to signal the body that there is danger present, and that the individual feeling fearful had better do something to make the danger, and the fear that accompanies it, go away.
Think of it this way: Imagine you’re eating ice cream when someone tries to break into your house at midnight. Would the pleasure of eating ice cream “reinforce” you for being afraid, so that you’d be more afraid the next time? If anything, things would work in the reverse—you might develop an unconscious discomfort around ice cream. However, you sure as heck aren’t going to be more afraid if a burglar arrives because you were eating chocolate mocha fudge the first time it happened.


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Discussion Starter #20
Intuition is very important when it comes to understand/communicate with dogs. Sometimes, we humans tend to rationalise too much when things can actually be quite simple. :)
So each situation is different, what's important is that we must use our intuition to understand what's working with our dogs and what's not. They can be very expressive and easy to read when we don't use our mind too much. :)

I guess that caressing/massaging to calm a dog can work for some dogs if a dog is already used to the association that massaging feels good and usually does calm him and not excite him. But even so, it's better not to do anything is a dog is too afraid or reactive, since if that happens, probably any extra stimulus can stress him further (so that it's better to wait for him to calm down a bit first).
But well, the idea of petting a dog when dog is afraid means praising his fear doesn't seem to make sense, although I guess that baby talk might not work well in these situations (better to transmit the calming feel rather than exciting)?
 
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