Nervousness is a behavioural trait that can plague a dog’s lifestyle for a number of reasons. It is often common in rescue dogs who have suffered neglect or abuse, but can also be found in dog’s from litters separated too early.
It’s entirely possible that a dog’s timid disposition is just part of the dog’s behaviour, but irrelevant of where those elements of the personality came from, the dog should learn that it need not be wary of those in it’s family.
A dog can be nervous of various triggers in various forms. For instance, some dogs are nervous of humans and human interaction. Some can be nervous of other groups of dogs and others can be nervous of strange or foreign objects such as a bike or vacuum cleaner.
When handling a nervous dog, always make sure your movements are slow and controlled. Always study the behaviour your dog is giving off and be aware that a dog that feels threatened can react without thinking. A dog may bite out of fear as a last resort, don’t push to put your dog in that position.
Fear of Human Interactions
If your dog is fearful of your family in the home, then slow, steady approaches are best. Slowly greeting your dog with gentle petting, praise and treats are a good way to start. Trust needs to be built and this isn’t something that will change within a few days. It will take a while for your dog to warm up to you, and while he does, try to limit raising your voice, shouting, or other loud noises in the home such as television volume. A calm home is the best way to making your dog feel comfortable.
If guests in the home, or out and about are the issue, ask several friends to help you. Meet in a big open space such as a park and get them to approach the dog one by one, offering treats and soft, gentle speaking tones to him.
Start off by letting your dog be approached by only one stranger at a time. Then once he appears more comfortable with individuals, get two of your friends to approach, still offering treats and praise.
Once you’ve met them out in an open space, invite them over, again one at a time and follow the same technique. Make sure the dog cannot hide behind furniture in the room where the encounter will take place, but also make sure that your dog does not feel threatened when he is approached.
Keep working with various friends or family members to thoroughly socialise your dog. If you see another dog walker out and about you can politely stop them, and ask them to give your dog a treat that you have prepared with you. This shows your dog that irrelevant strangers in most regular day to day tasks are not threats.
Fear of loud noises such as fireworks.
Fireworks are a recurring problem every year and the distance between most firework events means that the dog never properly gets a chance to become acclimated to them.
There are several plug in scent diffusers that work by calming your dog. In some serious instances where the dog is severely distressed, your vet may be able to administer some light drugs to calm him during times of significantly loud firework noise.
Fear of other Dogs
Fear of other dogs is a sign of poor socialising. A dog should be allowed to be a dog and mix with those of his own kind and not just people. Regular walking off leash in the park should enable the dog to socialise with other dogs sufficiently.
You can also join training classes, which are particularly perfect for socialising young puppies not just towards other dogs, but towards strangers as well. Puppies will naturally mature and become wary of strangers once they reach a certain age, but nervousness to the point of destructive social behaviour is something that should be worked on by the owner.