Keep your distance! Help for fearful dogs

Imagine you’re afraid of spiders. Or mice. Would you be happy to see a spider or a mouse sitting on the table in front of you, or would you feel easier if said spider or mouse were more like fifty feet away?

Your dog is exactly the same!

He’ll feel much more relaxed when he’s a comfortable distance away from something that frightens him. And for dogs who bark ferociously at strange dogs they see on walks, the further that dog is from him, the easier it will be for him to stay calm and not react as if the ravening hordes were descending on him.

It’s a very simple first step to making your poor, frightened, anxious, stressed-out, dog feel happier about the world he has to live in. You may think your dog is aggressive, but the chances are he’s actually just afraid.

Distance is not the total solution to dog reactivity, of course. But just see what a difference this one step made to Chris and her family:

“My husband who walks the dogs has taken on board your tips and is amazed at the change in her. He comes home saying, ‘We passed five dogs and she didn't bark once!’“

When you’ve got this working, and your dog knows you’ll always keep your distance from other dogs, and never make him go right up to them (this perhaps in the mistaken belief that all dogs love to play), life will suddenly become much easier.

How distant is this distance?

This really will vary from dog to dog, and from place to place. There are other things coming into play that will influence your dog’s reactions too, like when he last ate, when he last felt the need to bark at another dog, upsets in the home, fireworks, a change in routine, and so on.

So you have to find out what distance will work for your dog. This could be 20 yards, though it’s more likely to be 50 or 100 yards. Observe him and see when he’s sufficiently relaxed to be able to look away from the other dog, and to respond to you. Now you’ve found the distance to aim for.

Next time he may manage to be a bit closer to another dog (say, 5 yards closer), or he may need to be further away still!

Keep in mind that if your dog is on edge and hating every moment of your walks together, then there’s no need to keep doing them.


There is no law that says your dog must run the gauntlet of his fears on a daily basis. How would you feel if you had to confront all those spiders and mice at close quarters every time you stepped out of the door?

For exercise, you’ll do better having a fast fun game of fetch or chase in the garden. If you don’t have a garden, then drive to a suitably open space - as dog-free as possible - and enjoy your game there.

And for lots more help with your barky, growly, dog - get our free e-course to turn things round without force, shouting, or yanking the lead!

Peace and calm are on their way to you.


Want to really understand why your dog does what he does? And learn quickly how to change it?

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