Tuesday Tip: You Can’t Reinforce Fear


With the 4th of July approaching, I want to talk about the myth that comforting a dog who is afraid will reinforce their fear…. It’s just not true!

Now, some dogs may not find petting/comfort from you helpful, but for the dogs who do seek you out for comfort when they are afraid, please do reassure them. You cannot reinforce their fear by helping your dog out when they are afraid.

The key is to figure out what is helpful for each individual dog.

Some dogs like to find a small dark place to hide. My greyhound who was afraid of thunder storms would head for a closet to hunker down until the storm had passed. Perhaps create this kind of space for your dog if this is something they seek out. An open crate with a blanket/cover over it can be helpful for some pups.

Other dogs want to be close to you, my boy Bernie prefers to curl up as close as he can get when the thunder starts, while other dogs like Archer prefer to get more space and find touching very unhelpful when they are worried. It’s important to know your dog and what they find reassuring.

If you have a dog who will panic when the fireworks begin, consider staying home with them, and be sure to have some form of ID on them, as many dogs will bolt when panicked.