It’s fairly natural for a dog or puppy to show some signs of reluctance when being introduced to new places and situations. It all comes down to survival instinct, which is why it is up to the owner to teach them that not all places need be fearful.
The first stop for a new dog or puppy, after home of course, is a trip to the veterinarian. The health of your dog is of the utmost importance, but it’s also a good idea to start building a relationship between your dog, the vet, and people at the office as quickly as possible. Seek out a chew treat that is small and easy to digest, and take them with you to the vet’s office. These special treats should only be used when your puppy is being taken into a situation that he might find to be scary or unsettling. When you arrive, make sure that the vet and the office employees have a couple of those treats to offer up to the puppy. Keep in mind, though, that treats are only given when he approaches the vet or displays positive behavior. They should not be used as a way of coaxing him out of hiding. Once your puppy learns that everyone at the office has treats, he will look forward to going back. If he remains fearful on subsequent visits, make sure that it is only the staff, and not you, who offers up the treats.
You can practice by taking him to the vet’s office even when you don’t have an appointment, although you should always call ahead to ensure that they are not busy. Encouraging your dog when he is behaving well is good, but don’t use platitudes to reassure him when he is showing signs of fear, as this will make him believe that fearful behavior is to be rewarded. The only time that a fearful dog gets pets or platitudes is when he approaches new people and situations without any real signs of fear. You may find that your dog or puppy tries to jump up on you when faced with these new situations, and this too must be ignored without praise. When he jumps up like that, you should use the leash to guide him back into the proper position, as putting your hands on him to move him may be viewed as a sign that you are actually petting and praising the behavior.
Proper preparation is the key to making a scary situations manageable for your dog. The places that are most likely to incite fear are: vet, pet store, groomer, boarding kennel, dog park, friend’s home, etc. When visiting any new areas such as those mentioned above, always have your dog on a leash, as this allows you to be in control. Always have treats handy and ready to go, too.
The situation can be made even worse when you are transporting your dog in a car. There are many dogs that are uncomfortable in the car, so get them used to traveling that way first, as this can help lessen the fear they feel in a new place. If the dog associates a car ride with a trip to a place they fear, the ride can become intolerable.
If you want your dog to be safe while riding in the car, use a crate or a seatbelt to secure him. Plastic crates are perhaps the best option, as they are easier to clean and maintain should accidents occur. Seatbelts help make the dog feel a little freer while still keeping him in place. Both options are good at making sure your dog stays safe and injury free if you have to stop suddenly or get in an accident.