Fear triggers survival mechanisms – mainly fight or flight, but the dog can also freeze or play the fool. When a dog feels that he has no control at all over what happens to him, such as being forced to tolerate the approach of another dog he’s scared of, he may try harder to escape or, on the other hand, may attack.

Let me share a couple of tips with you, to prevent the situations mentioned above from happening. First and foremost, it’s important to give your dog autonomy so he feels he has some control over the situation and what happens to him.

Ensure the leash is lose – a tight leash doesn’t give your dog autonomy. It may be short, but lose.

When the leash is tense and too short the sensation of having no escape increases, which, in turn, may intensify the fear.

Proceed at your dog’s pace – for example, give him leeway to decide when and how he wants to approach someone on the street.

From our point of view some of our dog’s fears make no sense and seem unjustified, because what represents a threat to him is, quite often, trivial to us. Because we believe there is no reason for him to be afraid, we become impatient and try to rush the process. Let’s bear in mind that fear is an emotion linked to survival and that changing emotional states takes time and calls for an efficient approach.

Give him space and freedom to maneuver when outdoors – for example, side stepping a garbage container instead of brushing past it may help him feel safe due to the distance at which he walks past it.

In the face of a certain trigger, such as a motorbike parked on the sidewalk, a fearful dog may become conflicted and display curiosity and avoidance. In this case he will alternate between approaching and retreating. It’s important to give him space to do that.

He may also be afraid of people approaching and need to retreat to a safe distance or hide behind your legs.

There are also situations where a fearful dog simply needs to stop and observe.

Let him. Don’t force him to carry on walking. This happens because in many instances fearful dogs need to identify where a certain sound is coming from. In short, the more your dog is given choices (approach something the way he feels safest; retreat; observe) the more he will feel he’s in control of the situation. And this is what will speed up the process of overcoming the fear.