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My Pet World: Helping a skittish dog go for a walk – and safety during the solar eclipse

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

My five-year-old female golden retriever is afraid to go for walks. She will walk with me within the confines of my development, but as soon as I head out toward a main road, she stops and won't budge.

She has always been a bit skittish and afraid of little things. She also refuses if someone other than me tries to take her for a walk. Any suggestions?

— Jeff, Holtsville, New York

Dear Jeff,

First, try putting an Anxiety Wrap® or Thundershirt® on her for her walks. These are anxiety-reducing clothing for dogs that helps them feel more secure. Additionally, consider putting a pheromone collar on her and/or giving her over-the-counter calming chews beforehand to reduce any anxiety.

 

Next, gradually increase her exposure to new parts of the neighborhood and people. During the walk, offer plenty of praise and treats to reinforce positive behavior and reassure her that she's doing great. Keep her walks short and familiar and gradually introduce new routes as she becomes more comfortable.

During moments of hesitation or anxiety or meeting new people, stop and take a break. Let her take in the sights and smells of her surroundings as this also helps a dog relax and feel more confident.

When it comes to new people, ask them to stand further away than normal to give her some space. Then, give her treats every 10 to 20 seconds to reward her for being calm. You can let the person come gradually closer as she becomes more comfortable.

After the break, encourage her to sit and reward her with a tasty treat. Praise her and resume your walk. As you do, drop treats in front of her every few steps. This “food encouragement” helps her take small, confidence-building steps without realizing it. Use a high value treat that she wouldn’t normally get any other time, like cooked chicken or dog jerky.

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