Ask Seth: Why is my terrier afraid of everything?

My 2-yr. old Terrier is afraid of everything! Is there anything that can be done?


Hi Seth,

I do not know what to do! My 2-yr. old Boston Terrier is afraid of everything. She is always shaking and cowering. We got her as a baby so I know she hasn't been abused. Is there anything that can be done?

Marta Novotny

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To start, you need to speak with your veterinarian and have them help you locate a reputable dog trainer or behaviorist. With the severity of your case, the vet may want to try herbal remedies or even medication. Dog trainers usually have formal training with the worst of the worst animals. Fear comes from a lack of socialization or lack of interactions with others, and requires a lot of training. Some dogs figure it out on their own, while others need help. Start now, be patient and most importantly - stick with it!

Fearful animals must have an incredible relationship with their handler and trust that person 1000%. This trust allows the dog to follow your lead, even when nervous. You can build this through positive-based training techniques. Never get overly frustrated with her. Anger and frustration will only frighten her and reinforce the fear. A passionate, positive dog trainer will provide the animal with the confidence she needs and will also train you to become the perfect parent. People always say “I have had dogs my whole life, I can train this dog.” I tell them, “Watch how Caesar Milan (aka The Dog Whisperer) walks into a room of dogs he doesn’t even know, and they are doing exactly what he wants them to almost immediately.” That is because he has a handler’s mentality and dogs are comfortable following him even though they may be afraid.

Good luck and stick with whatever program you develop. It takes time. I adopted a dog over a year ago that was afraid of males, to the point that he would not even let them touch him. With the help of a local trainer, I worked with him everyday - taking him for walks, socializing, obedience training, and training him to recognize me as his handler and protector even when he was afraid. I stuck with it and now he is always by my side!


Seth Mayersohn, CVT

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