My dog is very scared of people. she is a year old and has been scared of new people for a few months. today, she was outside in the yard and my mom came out the door, lily began to bark at her and walk away. she knows my mom well. Why did she do that? is this a fear stage? How long can they last? can they last a long time? she can't walk pass people on walks either, she gets very scared. what is wrong with my dog?
Dr. Marie replied:
Sorry to hear that Lily is having problems with fear. This is unfortunately a very common problem, but there are things that can be done.
It's hard to say why this is just starting now. It is possible that there was a situation where she was frightened by someone. However, I have seen it happen often that a dog just starts to develop fear and we really don't have a reason for it.
Here are a few suggestions.
Consider enrolling Lily in an obedience school. Even if you have already taught her obedience commands, being in the school will help her to have fun and learn how to handle situations where there are new people (and new animals as well).
The other thing that we need to do is to give her lots of positive experiences with new people. The way we do this is by repetition. So, you will need to get friends to help you and repeatedly give her good experiences with new people.
Here's an example of what you can do. You can teach her that when someone comes through the door it is good. To do this, I would give her a word or a phrase that means good things. You can make one up. Such as "Hi Lily" or even a nonsense word like "BOOP". Then over and over again say "BOOP" and each time you say it give Lily a treat and praise. Do this enough times so that she associates BOOP with good things.
Then, you graduate to the next step. Leave Lily inside and then you walk in the door, immediately say BOOP and give her a treat. Do this over and over again so that Lily learns that when you come in the door, it is GOOOOOD! Then, keep doing this over and over, but one time, instead of you coming in the door, have your mom come in the door and say "BOOP" and immediately give her a treat. Then immediately you come in the door and give her a treat.
At some point as you are doing this have someone she doesn't know come in the door and give her a treat.
As she learns this game, you can start to do it in other places. So, you can ask friends to meet you on a walk and play the "BOOP" game.
Another thing I would highly suggest is to consider seeing a veterinary behavior specialist. These vets are really good at helping you determine why she is being afraid and give you more ideas on what you can do.
I do have some dogs that I have to put on medication for fear anxiety, but most can be trained with persistence and a willing owner.
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what kind of medications can help her? can fear periods last a long time?
Dr. Marie replied:
The medication I prescribe the most for this type of problem is one called Clomicalm but there are others. However, most vets will not just prescribe this on asking. They will usually help you try training first, or use training along with medication.
Fear periods can indeed last a long time. It's difficult if we don't know why she is fearful. So, this is why it is important that we deal with this properly as soon as we can!
Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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