Canine insecurity is one of the most misunderstood behavioral challenges facing dogs today and can be extremely difficult to conquer. The issue moves far beyond mere behavior striking to the core of a dog’s happiness and quality of life. The “cure” for the insecure dog requires possessing the proper knowledge about canine insecurity and making an unwavering commitment to your pet’s wellness. In my career as a canine behavioral specialist, I seek to provide the former while encouraging the latter.
It can be easy to spot a fearful dog when it cowers but very often the signs of insecurity are masked by outward aggression. To the untrained eye, aggressive behavior in a dog naturally equates to an aggressive, or dominant, mindset in the animal. Sometimes, however, if it walks like a duck, growls like a duck, and bites your hand like a duck, it’s actually an insecure duck . . . or dog, in this case. In fact, about 95% of the aggressive cases I have dealt with have been caused by insecurity, not by a true aggressive intent.
The root of insecurity is hard to pin down. Whether it is genetic, as I believe it often is, or a natural canine response to an overwhelming human world is very hard to discern. At any rate, it is clear that many dogs exhibit extreme insecurity from birth. Of these dogs, some will cower and act fearful while others will attempt to frighten away what frightens them by adopting an aggressive approach to other people and animals. The important distinction is that these dogs will bite out of fear, not dominance, the root of true aggression.
The insecure dog does not respond well to discipline. Traditional disciplinary methods generally will frighten an insecure dog and make a bad situation far worse. Meaningful and appropriately timed praise is paramount when coaxing an insecure dog toward a trusting relationship. Once trust is established, proper training can begin. Over time, if done with great care, my methodology for training an insecure dog will transform the animal.
My beloved dog Amber, for example, was insecure from birth. People that meet her are very surprised to hear this because she often appears to be the friendliest dog in my pack. Before I knew her she was going to be euthanized because her insecurity had bred aggressive behavior. There is an important distinction to be made here: her behavior was aggressive but the cause was her mental state or predisposition towards insecurity. In working with her, I addressed the root cause of her problem, not the symptom. Helping Insecure Dogs (Part II)