Dog Bite Liability: How to Rehabilitate a Fearful Dog
For whatever reason, you may have acquired a dog who has issues with shyness and fear. Maybe it’s a dog you adopted and you do not know the history of, or perhaps it is a dog that was not socialized well as a puppy, or suffered abuse and neglect from their previous owner. No matter what the circumstances are, a fearful dog is one that is more likely to bite.
While you can protect yourself financially from an incident by purchasing a Dog Bite Liability Insurance Policy, most likely you would like to try to prevent a dog bite from occurring in the first place! Dog bites are not 100% preventable, nor predictable, but here are some ideas of how you can work towards rehabilitating a fearful dog, and potentially reducing the risk of a dog bite.
Practice reward-based training. Reward-based training has been shown time and time again to be the single fastest and most effective form of dog training. Rather than focusing on a “dominance hierarchy” as some trainers prefer or punishing a dog for bad behavior (which can increase the dog’s fearfulness), reward-based training operates on a single principle. That principle is to reward your dog for behavior that you want to see, and reward immediately after you see the behavior.
Socialization. This process involves gradually exposing your dog to more and more things, people, animals, etc. until your dog becomes comfortable with them. It’s extremely important with fearful dogs to start slow, and to not subject them to any situation in which the fear becomes overwhelming. An example of how you might go about this is, if your dog is afraid of people, have visitors to your house give your dog treats for a few moments, and then allow your dog to go in another room. Once they grow comfortable with this, you can increase the time that the dog has to be present with the visitors. Some dogs are fearful of anything unfamiliar, which may require more patience and training. This article highlights one woman’s quest to help her fearful dog.
Give your dog a safe place. This might mean a crate in a quiet area of the house, or an unused guest room that you can put his toys and bedding in. This will become your dog’s hiding place and give him a place to go if visitors or fear becomes overwhelming. Remind your guests though, especially children, that the dog is to be left alone if they are in this hiding place. Dogs who have a safe place are less likely to bite than dogs who feel like there’s no escape.
Following these steps can get you on your way to rehabilitating a fearful dog. Remember that it is a long process that requires patience. Don’t force it, and don’t allow people your dog is afraid of to touch your dog before they are ready. If you have visitors who insist on petting the dog (i.e. children), it’s best to not have them over until you feel your dog is ready for that. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional trainer either. Rehabilitation of a very fearful dog can be challenging, and it’s a great idea to have some help. There are also books that can be of great assistance.
At the Federation of Insured Dog Owners (F.I.D.O), we offer the Covered Canine Policy, an exclusive Dog Bite Liability Product and benefit for F.I.D.O members only. Please contact us today for more information at (855) 534-6495.