Why should I not speak in a “baby talk” tone to try to calm my fearful dog?FamilyPet
It’s only natural to want to comfort your dog when she’s upset, but when you talk baby talk or say other “comforting words” to her, or when you stroke and pet her, you are actually ingraining the fear even more and making it worse.
Baby talk is the high-pitched tone that’s used by parents to encourage both babies and dogs to interact and play. In almost every species, high-pitched sounds are made by infants and juveniles, and are often used by adults when squealing out in fear or in play and, since dogs cannot interpret things like tone and cadence, fear becomes the operative word.
Instead, speak to her in a low, calm voice. Go about your business, because when you give your extra attention during any stressful time, she’ll perceive that as praise for her behavior and that will continue. On the other hand, when she is completely ignored during those times, she learns to accept them when they come, and will eventually just go lay down somewhere
Often we seem to be either unaware, or unwilling to acknowledge how scared our dogs are. What may seem like a small thing to us is HUGE to them and, therefore, no amount of cooing or baby talk will calm them down.
Instead, better ways of calming include:
• Using desensitization: This works well if the dog is afraid of common household objects, like vacuum cleaners or even food processors. Thunderstorms, fireworks and backfiring cars can also create anxiety. See our article on steps to desensitize.
• Conducting a short obedience training session. Getting her into the “sit” or “down” position or putting her in “sit/stay” for a few moments can work wonders! It requires intense concentration on her part so it’ll tire her and calm her right down. What’s more, you’ll be reinforcing your position as “pack leader” that she’ll find very comforting.
• Creating a “safe place” for her, with favorite toys and maybe an article of your clothing. Teach her the “go to your place” command and then use it when she becomes anxious.