These Simple Tips Will Help Desensitize Your Dog To ANY Fear Trigger

By Linda Goldfarb | Monday Monday Staff -    2017-10-16

Your rescue dog will face fear in his life. How he responds to it determines the peace you will experience at home. Here are some dog desensitizing tips to help your precious rescue dog overcome his fear triggers.

Raising dogs is one of my passions. In the past 30-years, more than thirty dogs have crossed our threshold. Raising and training German Shorthaired Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, strays, and rescued shelter dogs takes a lot of energy. You might figure, I’ve learned a thing or two about fear triggers and desensitizing dog tips. 

Whether your dog lives inside or in a protected outdoor space, fear triggers can wreak havoc in the pack.

What exactly are dog fear triggers? 

If your dog backs up when you pull out the nail clippers and or dog brush, or barks when someone knocks at the door you have found a fear trigger. Anything that causes your dog to react unexpectantly can be considered a fear trigger. Here is a short list of fear triggers.

  • Nail clippers
  • Dog brush
  • People at your door
  • Floor transitions – moving from tile to carpet for example
  • Walk area or pass through that is blocked by a small or large item

Consider your dog’s reaction. One of our rescues paces back and forth in the hall while the other two walk calmly into the guest bedroom. She behaves as though she sees a huge barrier between me and her. Yet, it’s only the transition space between two types of flooring.

So, what do you do about this type of dog fear trigger? Practice these simple dog desensitizing tips. 

Dog Desensitizing Tips Work Wonders

Step one – Introduce the fear trigger during meal time. Place the doggy brush next to the dog bowl full of food and pet your dog as he eats. Or, hold the clippers in your hand while you are preparing the meal. Repeat two to three times a week. He will associate it as a sign of good things to come.

Step two – show your dog the items by themselves. Don’t use them. Just show them and give your dog a treat while he’s calm. Place the item on the floor or on your lap while you are playing. Repeat this several times throughout the week.

Step three – Touch your dog with the fear trigger. Once again, don’t use it, just touch the foot with clippers or his back with a brush. Give a treat while the dog is calm. Use your words less and your actions more.

Repeat the introduction, show, and touch step as long as it takes until your dog fear trigger is replaced with a fun expectation.

Floor transition triggers and small openings take a little more effort.

I sit in the room allowing the other dogs to come and go. When our female starts her whining, I invite her in while holding a treat. Using high-quality dog food or treats as a reward helps to engage the fun factor. I start out, near the floor threshold and keep moving back offering a treat, and words of encouragement, for each successful step. 

Never rush your dog. Never pull your dog. Never pick your dog up and place them in the room. These actions will heighten your dog fear trigger.

If you would like more detail, check out this doggy how-to page.

Consider these ways to help your rescue dog feel loved.

What are your dog’s fear triggers? Share how you have helped them overcome.

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