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Training Your Pet to Be Fearless

There are many things to be afraid of in a pet's life – loud noises like thunder, fireworks and vacuum cleaners, scary places like the vet's office, a kennel or an unfamiliar park and even other animals, such as a neighbor's pet, a friendly visitor or a new member of the family. You can help your pet overcome these scary obstacles, however, when you take confident, deliberate steps to help them be fearless.

What Fearless Is and Isn't

A fearless pet is confident and assured even in unfamiliar or unusual circumstances, but not all fearless behavior is desirable. It is important to recognize that other types of behavior may at first seem fearless but can actually be poor and even dangerous actions.

A truly fearless pet can stay focused even with harsh distractions, and will more readily obey commands and follow their training even if the situation is different than one they've encountered before. This is not the same, however, as a pet they may be a bully, overly aggressive, poorly trained or generally reckless. An undisciplined pet, for example, may rush excitedly into a new situation without regard for its owner's or trainer's commands. An aggressive pet may dominate other animals, engaging in harsh behaviors that could lead to fighting and injuries. A destructive pet may break, damage or even destroy items. Despite these bold behaviors, all of these pets may still be frightened and afraid, and pet owners can take steps to help curb these undesirable behaviors and help pets face their fears confidently.

6 Ways to Help Your Pet Be Fearless

There are different ways to help pets become more confident and secure in different situations. Using multiple techniques is the best way to help your pet develop fearless behavior without being poorly behaved.

  1. A Foundation of Training
    The better your pet is trained, the more it can rely on that training to deal with situations that may at first be frightening. As your pet learns basic commands, it will develop a bond of trust with you and will be better able to follow that training in new and unusual situations. When your pet starts to get frightened, following different commands can be a comfortable distraction to help your pet focus rather than be afraid.

  2. Socialization for Success
    The more your pet is accustomed to different situations, the more it will be used to unusual noises, unfamiliar smells and strange activities, and the less frightening they will be. Take your pet to new places, let it meet new people and get it used to change, and it will become fearless about the unknown, because each unknown opportunity is also exciting and stimulating. Socialization should start very early, and continue throughout your pet's life.

  3. Eliminate the Fearful Object
    If your pet is showing fear only in one specific circumstance, it can be easy to eliminate the source of that fear and help your pet regain its confidence. This may be something simple, such as removing a piece of furniture your pet finds distressing, or stopping the use of certain perfumes that can make your pet anxious, or fixing a squeaky object that sets your pet on edge. Once you find and eliminate that one concern, your pet may be naturally fearless.

  4. Starting Slow
    When pets already have an inherent fear, it is easier to overcome that fear slowly. If your pet is afraid of loud noises, for example, you need to introduce loud but non-scary noises to your pet's environment. This may mean gradually turning up television or music volumes while playing with your pet so they are distracted and don't focus on the noise. Another tactic is to mix your pet's favorite food in a metal bowl with a metal spoon, making loud noises but giving your pet something tasty to anticipate, minimizing their fear.

  5. Show Your Confidence
    Your pet will look to your behavior for clues about what is scary and what may seem scary but really isn't. If you are unnerved by loud noises, strange places or other unusual circumstances, your pet is likely to pick up on your emotions and behavior, and their own fear will increase. If you are fearless and confident, however, your pet will realize there is nothing to fear and will trust your leadership.

  6. Practice Positive Reinforcement
    When your pet overcomes a fear, it is important to praise and reward that fearless behavior. Your praise and comfort can also help reduce your pet's anxiety, but be careful not to overly coddle your pet, which could only reinforce their fearful traits because they feel rewarded for being afraid. Instead, soothe them just enough to keep them calm, and incorporate other strategies to help them become fearless.

It will take time and patience to help your pet be fearless. By following several techniques, however, it is possible to help your pet overcome their fear and be confident and comfortable in different situations, no matter what may happen.