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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Scaredy dog


I am hoping that people might be able to offer some advice to help our gorgeous two-year-old Labradoodle, Bella!

We rescued Bella at the age of three months. She had spent the first three months shut in a cage in a barn so she had had no socialisation and was scared of everything! We have worked hard with her - it took ages to housetrain her (she thought you used a crate!) and she is still not reliable. She is still very scared of going out and getting her out of the gate and along the road is pretty difficult. However, I feel she has made some progress. But she is terrified of fireworks and when people come to the door, she seems so agitated/ fearful that she attacks our other dogs ( we have two Italian Spinones and a PBGV). She seems to find it hard to relax and is on constant "alert".

She enjoys training and can sit, go down and is doing well with stay. She is a sweet, affectionate little girl and we love her to bits. We do realise that a lot of her problems stem from fear so we try to help her with rewards, putting her alone briefly if someone is coming and so on, but we would love her to be more confident.

Any thoughts/ ideas would be really appreciated!

Many thanks.

Nicola, by email

Lucky Bella as she has such a lovely, understanding owner now! It sounds like you are working really hard with her. I think you are doing a lot of really good things already, and I would certainly look at ways to stop the difficulties at the door. In situations like this dogs can often find it overwhelming and can redirect this to whoever is nearby, including other dogs. Can you teach her to run to her bed when there is a noise at the door for example? 

This is quite basic training, where you build on the normal ‘go to bed’ by adding on the door noise as a cue for her to run there for a treat, toy or cuddle – whatever she loves the most. You can in fact train all your dogs to run to separate places if you need to!

With regard to fireworks, this can be tough for most dogs and when working with an already fearful dog can be even harder.

I think asking your Vet for referral to a APBC behaviourist ( might be a good move, as you can set up foundations for future success this way.


  1. For firework problems, Thundershirts are a good option. Specific fear-aid Supplements added to your dogs diet are also an option to calm down fearful dogs, in a natural way. In most cases, don't expect miraculous results straight away. Just try and be calm yourself - dogs feed from their owners.

  2. When a dog's behavioural problems stem from fear it can take a long, long time to really get over these issues, if at all. There is a complex chemical process going on in the dog's brain that can be hard wired, you must have realistic expectations that there may be some aspect of Bella's behaviour that will never be completely fixed, but there is a lot you can do to reinforce good behaviour. Above all, have patience and use kind, positive methods when she does well.

  3. Thanks for your comments ! We have tried loads of things with our Bella (including thundershirts which she tried to chew off!) , DAP etc. She does enjoy massage which we have been doing more .. and of course persevering with lots of kindness & treats to build her confidence. X