Why you shouldn’t calm your fearful dog

Thunder claps. The dog barks. Fireworks crackle. Your best friend cowers.

"Petting a dog when he's acting in a fearful manner actually serves as a reward for the behavior; it's almost as if we're telling the dog that being afraid in this situation is the right thing to do." Stanley Coren, author who wrote “How to speak dog,” told Psychology Today.

Coren is not alone.

Recent research and animal rescue groups agree that human behavior and reaction to their pet pals can do a lot to comfort them during times of anxiety.

"Do not attempt to reassure your dog when she is afraid," advises The Humane Society of the United States. "This may only reinforce her fearful behavior. If you pet, soothe, or give treats to her when she's behaving fearfully, she may interpret this as a reward for her fearful behavior. Instead, try to behave normally, as if you don't notice her fearfulness."

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A cottage industry aiding the noise-averse animal is cropping up.

Special clothing like the “ThunderShirt” is supposed to help sooth the dog. A new prescription medication was developed to help calm dogs with noise aversion.

Still, human interaction with a dog is important.

"If a dog seeks you out as a comfort force, I wouldn't turn the dog away," Atlanta-based dog behavior consultant Lisa Matthews told Mother Nature Network. "If they went to distance themselves and find a corner or safe space, I wouldn't go seek them out and say, 'Oh my gosh, let me hold you.' I would let them self-soothe."

At the same time, Matthews added: "We have to realize an animal is in distress. Why in the world would you turn your back to an animal in distress?"

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