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FREE Treats for Fearful Dogs

Even if you don’t have a fearful dog in your life, please read this post in case you meet one someday! This week I have a fearful puppy here for Board and Train. Although he is only 5 months old, Jasper already weighs forty pounds, and his growling and warning bark are ferocious enough to be quite intimidating.  It took Jasper nearly twenty-four hours to warm up to me (while living at my house).  Now we are great friends.  If Jasper came for training even a few months older, this “stranger-danger” likely would have escalated into frank aggression – a real problem that requires expertise, time, and money to solve.

My task during his time here is to introduce Jasper to friendly strangers so he can become convinced that even people he doesn’t know are “good” and not a problem for him. Luckily, I have a generous community of dog-loving humans to help!  I’m coaching everyone who comes to my place to give Jasper “free treats”.

So, what exactly is a free treat?

A free treat means there are no strings attached. For a dog like Jasper who does not want to get close to a stranger a free treat is TOSSED in his direction, a little PAST him, so that he doesn’t have to come closer to get the treat, in fact he moves away to get the treat, which helps him feel comfortable.  Furthermore, we avoid orienting toward him in a full-frontal position. 

Before Jasper’s owner left, we strolled around the grounds, and I dropped yummy meaty treats behind me for Jasper to find as I walked away.  That’s a free treat; no facing him, no eye contact, no cajoling him to get closer, and no asking for a “sit” - just free food.  Soon I felt him behind me, nuzzling my hand and I was able to feed him directly.  As long as I was walking away, and he was trailing after me he was comfortable and happy to take my food.  At one point in the walk, I briefly turned and faced him, and he immediately backed up and began barking in a serious tone. This gave me good information about his comfort level.  Facing a fearful dog can be quite threatening to them; a sideways stance is not so scary.

Jasper was even slower to warm up to my husband but did so on day three.  Once comfortable he revealed himself to be a typical wiggly puppy who wants belly rubs and to be right next to you all day long.

It’s important to acknowledge that Jasper has been in a loving home since his birth.  No one has abused him or been mean to him.  His mother was found as a pregnant stray and quite fearful herself.  All of her six puppies are fearful.  Fear is passed on both genetically, epigenetically, and learned through the pup’s exposure to their fearful mother’s behavior after birth.

So, if you encounter a fearful pup, remember to put your own needs to “meet” the pup to the side.  What that timid pup needs is space, patience, and some free treats!




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I volunteer to come be a stranger that knows and can do what is required.


Maureen, Information like this is tremendously helpful and really appreciated. Thank you

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