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Healthy Dogs

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Help Your Dog With Separation Anxiety and Other Common Fears

Animal Planet’s popular dog trainer Victoria Stilwell shares solutions for getting your dog through anxiety, fear of storms, and other worrisome behavior.



Q: Can my dog be cured of his fears and anxieties? Or do I just have to learn how to control his problems?

A: A lot of dogs can be modified to a point where they don’t suffer from it any more. But I don’t ever like to use the word "cured."

A lot of cases can be made 90%, 95% better. Some just 60%. Separation anxiety is one of the hardest because it’s so difficult to work with. And aggression is wildly misunderstood. But when it is understood, it can take a while for a dog to feel confident and calm.

There’s no amazing quick fix. You’re talking about behavior. You’re talking about the way the brain reacts. If you’re a human and you’ve got a real anxiety, you’re not going to get better after just one visit to the psychiatrist. It’s going to take a lot of therapy to get you to the point where you feel better. And it’s exactly the same with dogs.


Q: What can I do to keep my new puppy from developing fears and anxieties?

A: The primary socialization window, when the dog’s brain is like a sponge and it’s learning and taking cues from its environment, is between birth and 16 weeks. But before 16 weeks you have to be careful of taking a dog out because of its vaccinations.

This is a real discrepancy between veterinarians and trainers. You have to be careful, but you also have to find ways to socialize before 16 weeks. Socialization isn’t going to work with just meeting a few people and seeing a few cars drive along the road.

It’s got to be a lot of experiences with all different shapes and sizes of people, and colors and races, different environments, houses, homes, streets, busy streets, trucks, you name it. And all of it has to be very positive. Every experience. Everything.

Reviewed on June 08, 2012
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