How do you trust a nervous dog? Here’s What to Do Next

Play the Plate Game

How do you trust a nervous dog?

In a recent episode of The Hair of the Dog podcast, Sarah Dixon outlined a new game that I’m calling the Plate Game to avoid confusion with Chirag Patel’s Bucket Game.

The game is quite easy: put a dish, plate, or bowl on the ground somewhere between you and the dog.

It’s best to pick a spot near where your dog is already comfortable, such as near her bed. Place the plate far enough from you that your dog will be comfortable standing up and walking towards you to the plate, but not so close to your dog that you approaching the plate will be scary.

Now you simply walk up to the plate, drop or toss in a tasty morsel (boiled chicken breast is a favorite for both canine tastebuds and waistlines). Then back away until your dog feels comfortable walking up to get the treat.

Take a break, then repeat. Essentially, your dog is learning that you approaching means treats and that she can approach to get the food.

This game is similar to Treat and Retreat (below), but the action of allowing the dog to focus on the plate instead of you seems extra-soothing to anxious pooches. It’s also a bit simpler for non-trainers to grasp – you’re just walking up, offering food in a predictable place, and retreating. There’s less room for error!

Talk Less

How do you trust a nervous dog?

Some dogs respond well to baby-talk. But many scared dogs are less receptive to our talkative primate ways.

Feel free to test it out with your scared pup – do some soft baby talking and then watch. If the baby talk seems to perk up her ears, good. If she thumps her trail, great! Keep at it. But if the baby talk doesn’t have a measurable positive impact, cut it out. Odds are that it’s not helping, and it may even be hurting.

Rather than talking, just stay quiet and use your body language to show you’re not a threat. If the dog approaches you, great! If not, that’s ok too.

Never Punish a Fearful Dog

It may seem obvious, but it must be said: never scold or punish a fearful dog. You will only succeed in making it more fearful. You may also put yourself in danger because, as a dogs anxiety level rises, it becomes more likely to bite. Also, its best to avoid using aversives when training a fearful dog. In most cases, these can hinder progress and escalate fear.

Cesar Uses Food To Teach A Nervous Dog Trust | Cesar 911

Bringing a dog into your home is so exciting! You’ve probably been dreaming of this moment for months—maybe years! And now your new pup is finally home.

Whether you picked up your dog from a rescue shelter or a breeder, it might be confusing as to why he’s so scared. The fact is, this is all new to your dog! Imagine if someone took you away from the life you knew and brought you to a strange new place full of people you don’t know. You’d be scared too!

No matter where your dog came from, you have to build trust with him. And while his fearfulness might make it seem like you’ll never get anywhere with your dog, that can’t be further from the truth.

Here are a 12 tricks and tips to help your scared dog learn to trust you.