Thinking we would head up to the top of this lookout I quickly realized that Elsa was afraid.  It took only a few minutes of calmly walking around and then slowly nonchalantly  up the steps.  Calm.

Fear:  a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.  Whether the threat is real of imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.  

Fear is a common emotion in many dogs.  I have met lots of dogs over the years who have been dealing with some degree of it.  The reason for fear can be as wide as the levels of fear itself.  How we deal with the reaction to a fear can help or make matters worse.  No matter what the fear is, it is indeed a fear.  So trying to use human common sense to rationalize a fear with your dog does not work.  No matter how ridiculous a fear seems, it is still a fear.  When that fear emotion is triggered we must act on it, calmly.

I am always talking about how dogs are watching us, all the time.  Even when we don't think that they are, they are.  So when you react to an action or situation, your dog is taking it all in.  Calm is the first step in helping a fearful dog, the next is looking for the tiniest of success.  Often with fear there is no monumentally success ratio.  It is step by baby step to true success.  The get'r done method does not work in rehabilitating a fearful dog.  

Distance is the next step, whatever the fear is being caused by must be kept at a distance until it is no longer eliciting a fearful response.  The flooding method of rehabilitation for fear should never be an option with dogs. Flooding throws a dog into the very situation that causes the fear, head on, all triggers.  It can backfire badly causing a dog to shut down completely, react aggressively and/or cause many other reactions plus fallout behaviors of the situation itself. 

Often you will never know what has caused a fearful reaction.  This is the case with many second hand dogs.  You may not know what the dogs background life was so that leaves you with just big question marks.  This just means that you deal with what you have, reactions to a fearful thing, be it a place, object, person etc.  Association is what you must create, a new association to whatever the fearful thing is.  

Elsa is a confident dog but has a sense of alarm at new objects, especially within her space.  If I put a new pot out in the yard she will sound off attempting to rid the yard of the new intruder.  I take that as my cue to walk out and calmly past the pot.  She watches intently and then follows me out and sniffs it, finally realizing it is not an evil object out to get us.  

There are times when we are out that something will startle us all.  I hate when it happens but know that a quick response will erase any negative fallout effects.  Just the other day my husband was messing around with the sound system when it burst into such loud music that everyone just about had a heart attack.  I was sitting right beside Luke and he flew off the couch like he'd been shot out of a canon.  Knowing full well that this was most definitely enough to send him into a seizure I got up and we went to check out some lizards in the yard forgetting that we had all just had the begeezus scared out of us.  

Think ZEN when dealing with fear issues.


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