Fear Period

It is important to remember that your puppy is a sentient being, just like you, meaning that they are able to perceive and feel things. However trivial their fears may seem to you, they are very real to them. Who are we to say how they should feel towards something in particular, no matter how silly it may seem? If you are afraid, fearful or insecure about something, I want you to think about it. They are sometimes our biggest problems in the world and prevent us from living our best life. Why? Because they are specific to you and no one else is experiencing them, let alone understanding them. When working with your puppy you must have compassion and patience. It is easy to create an obedient dog, but to create a happy, willing and cooperative dog, well that is hard, and a skill, but is all the more magical when you achieve it and should be your number one goal when working with your puppy. 


If your puppy is exposed to a situation that it finds to be scary or something bad happens to it, it takes 3 to 5 days for the cortisol (hormone released during fear) to leave their system. In that 3 to 5 day period it is normal for your puppy’s appetite to decrease and for it to be either more hyper, lethargic, aware or nervous/anxious. In this period, be extra vigilant and mindful of your puppy, their communication and their needs, as they are in a heightened state of arousal and could initiate confrontation or react unusually to a situation which wouldn't normally phase them.


YOU CAN NOT REINFORCE YOUR PUPPY’S FEAR! It is important that you don’t focus on what your puppy does but rather, what they feel. If you focus on how your dog feels, subsequently their behaviour will change. 


Voluntary behaviours are behaviours that are intentional in nature such as sit, drop, loose lead walking, etc, as opposed to involuntary behaviours which are reflexes such as blinking, sneezing, panting, barking, etc. Any feelings your puppy has are involuntary behaviours. Your puppy can not make themselves feel a certain way. 


Try and make yourself cry (upset) for a second, it doesn’t work. You need an external event or stimulus to produce this emotion. 


Hiccuping is an involuntary behaviour. If someone gave you $100 every time you hiccuped and now asked you to hiccup on command, could you do it? No. If you were kicked each time you hiccuped, would that make you never hiccup again? No. The moment we start to work with involuntary actions the rules of training change. It’s all about changing how the dog feels, not necessarily about the behaviour. 

When your dog barks, lunges or growls at a trigger, you are simply seeing the physical display of the emotion they are feeling. Your job is to determine why your dog is reacting. Are they over-excited, scared or frustrated and, what feelings are associated with that reaction? These are not voluntary behaviors that can be manipulated by rewards or punishments. 

You cannot decrease emotion by using punishment, usually you will only feed the cycle, just like you cannot increase it by using rewards. E.g. If you love lollipops but hate snakes and were stuck in a room with 100 snakes and I gave you a lollipop, will that make you more scared of snakes? No. One of two things will happen. The first is you now really don’t care about the lollipop as you have snakes slithering around your feet and all value in your once loved lollipop is gone. The second is the lollipop is tasty and you have wonderful past memories and emotions of eating lollipops on holidays, which will help to change the emotional association towards the snakes and help develop a positive association of being around the snakes, as long as no incident happens. It is not about the lollipop, it is about the emotional association the lollipop holds. 

When working with emotions we need to re-program the brain to link a new emotion to the trigger. Any new emotions should be calm, positive, relaxed, happy, content and most importantly, safe.

Screen Shot 2021-10-27 at 12.24.57 pm.png