Clinic Hours:
Mon-Fri 8 to 5:30
Sat. by appointment only

31310 Woodhaven Trail
Cannon Falls, MN 55009

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Phone Numbers:
651-258-4050 office
651-258-4051 fax
651-222-0885 Twin Cities


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Canine Fears and Phobias

Dogs may be frightened or phobic of noises, people, other animal species, places, or things. Their reaction is determined by their genetics, stage of development, previous experiences, and their emotional condition at the time of exposure. We constantly stress the importance of proper socialization (to different people and environments) for all young puppies less than 14 weeks of age.

Their innate responses are genetically programmed into their behavior such as fear of a predator. When frightened their instinctive response is to “fight or flight”. Their fear is reinforced when they run away (flight response) from a frightful experience and safely reach their zone of comfort. A dangerous alternative is fear aggression, which results in the stimulus moving away or leaving, such as (delivery man, biker, or jogger). When the stimulus moves away, the dog experiences immediate gratification and is rewarded by expressing their aggressive traits. If the stimulus does not move away, the fear aggression may result in a person or child getting bit or the dog may end up in a dog fight.

One of the largest contributing factors to a phobia is when owners reinforce fearful behavior. When a stimulus (scary situation) is present, owners attempt to comfort their dog by speaking softly and offering physical comfort or food rewards. This attention reinforces their dog’s fearful response and increases their fear of the stimulus. The phobia gets worse each time the dog is rewarded for their fearful response. On the other hand, punishing the fear response can also increase their uneasiness with the situation and reinforce their phobia. Every situation is different and it is important to contact CVS to schedule an appointment.

When the stimulus is present, fearful dogs may whine, tremble, avoid eye contact, place their tail between their legs, lower their head and body, pin their ears back, and raise their hackles. Uncontrolled urination and defecation may also occur. Some dogs may try to hide in small dark areas.

Fear of Noises (One of the most common fears)
The most common stimuli are thunderstorms, fireworks, gunshots, trains, garbage trucks, or construction equipment. They are easy to recognize and difficult to control.

Fear of People
Dogs that are improperly socialized as young puppies develop a fear of new people and lack the ability to trust. They exhibit a fear response of babies, children, disabled people, people in uniform, a person that moves too quickly into their space or comfort zone and an individual that has caused an uncomfortable experience for them. An example would be a dog that is fearful of a groomer because she trimmed its toenails.

Fear of Animals
Dogs that were improperly socialized may be frightened of other dogs and other species. Examples are dogs exhibiting fear when they are introduced to new dogs, cats or horses. They may growl or excessively bark.

Fear of Places
Many dogs are challenged when they enter unfamiliar environments or buildings. They may exhibit fear when entering crowded areas or rooms with slippery or shiny floors.

CVS Treatment Objective
The treatment objective is to teach your pet that the stimulus (it is fearful of) can be associated with a reward. Do not reinforce their fearful behavior or inappropriate reaction by petting, verbally praising, or physically rewarding their fearful behavior. Instead, reward them for the appropriate behaviors only. First we identify the stimulus. Then we desensitize your pet by helping them “face their fears”. We reward the calm and relaxed behaviors.

The prognosis is dependent on several factors such as the breed and age of the pet, the dominance factor, the duration of the fearful behavior, and the owner’s diligence with training. For success, it is vital that the behavior modification techniques be used correctly and precisely. By teaching your dog the behaviors you prefer, they learn how to work for your attention in a productive manner, rather than in a fearful or mischievous way.

Our extensive experience and knowledge allows us to succeed where others may fail. We pride ourselves on staying current with the new training techniques by attending continuing education seminars. This allows us to bring new information to you, the client. We maintain extraordinary success because of our trainer’s passion and commitment to bringing a new meaning to the phrase “A dog’s life”!!



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