Sometimes when I correct my dog, he cowers and looks like I am going to hurt him.

I was out in Dawsonville buying some goodies at the local dog store the other day when one of the customers noticed that I was wearing my Home Dog Training of Georgia shirt.  He approached me and asked if I were a dog trainer.  I responded that I had been training dogs for over 9 years and asked him if he had a question or needed some help with his dog.  He said that he never hit or yelled or did anything to scare his dog, but whenever he had to correct him, his dog cowered and hid in the corner.  He was at a loss of how to let his dog know that he was doing something wrong. 

As a dog trainers, we have experienced this situation many times where the dog is overly fearful or has experienced a traumatic experience in his past where a slight correction could ignite those bad experiences and cause trauma.  As dog owners and dog trainers, we are never trying to “scare our dog into obedience”.  Our goal is to teach our dog what is right and wrong and trust us as the one keeping him safe, happy, and secure.

Let’s clear the slate of all those other correction methods and try to determine the best method to communicate with our dog in this situation.  Remember, we still need to show him what is right and wrong…


We must use an alternative method than the standard correction process to let our fearful dog know he is doing something wrong and we will teach him what is right.  Instead of a direct correction that is causing a fearful state with our dog, we recommend a more passive method known as a redirection.  We still want to tell our dog he is doing something wrong and to teach him what is right, but we will use a more passive method.

Here is what you do:

  • Put a standard 6 foot leash on your dog during the day.
  • Put the leash off him and put it back on at random times so your dog doesn’t associate the leash with a particular event or time of day.  You do not need to hold the leash during this time.  Let your dog drag it behind him.  This will eliminate the leash as a special event and turn it into “simple white noise”.
  • You can only have the leash on him when someone is home and can hear or see your dog.  If he gets it caught on a chair leg, you must be able to release it quickly to assure that your dog is not hurt or scared.
  • After a few days, your dog will be wandering around with the leash and will pay no attention to it.  Now you are ready to begin to use the leash as a tool of behavior modification through redirection…

Here is an example of how this works:

  • If your dog starts to be bad and do things such as running around the house, don’t yell and chase him.  Calmly approach the end of the leash which is actually six feet away from him.  Since you are not directly approaching him, you will not be adding to the excitement or escalation of play of the moment.
  • Calmly put your foot on the leash.
  • Your dog will now be required to stop.  Wondering what just happened, he will look back towards you.  Up until know, he believed that he was in complete control and could do whatever he wanted.  For some reason, he lost control.
  • As he looks back, he sees you.  You are calm & still, not approaching him, and standing tall.  This is what your dog expects to see in a good leader and teacher.  You passively told your dog that he couldn’t go nuts and he needs to obey you because you are his leader and teacher.

I want to make it clear that you still told your dog “no”, but you allowed him to come to that conclusion by neutralizing the situation in your favor.  You broke his focus from doing the wrong thing, placed him in a state of doing the right thing, and passively affirmed your leadership role.  The end result is he is now doing what you want him to do.

Please call us at (770) 718-7704 it you are in need of any dog training help.  We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Dawsonville Georgia.  Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Dawsonville Georgia.