When we first got Tasha, she was very afraid of the shower, even to the extent that she would not go in the bathroom while we were in there. She is usually a dog that is always right by our sides. Recently, a Facebook friend posted a comment about how her dog is afraid of her new office chair. Everyone gets phobias that can be debilitating if left unsolved. For me, that phobia is lightning, but everyone has something and dogs are no exception. I helped Tasha with her big inanimate object fear, and oddly enough she is trying to help me with mine by licking my hand to calm me down during storms.
So, if your dog won’t go near some inanimate object, including water, it will take a lot of patience and hard work, but you can help them get over that fear. First, find a treat that really motivates your dog. For Tasha, it’s cheese. Please keep in mind that if your dog is afraid of water, you will want a high value treat that doesn’t get soggy when wet. Cheese, lunch meat, and hot dogs all would work well.
The first step is then getting your dog’s leash and guiding your dog toward the room of the object. Keep the leash relatively short but loose. Throughout this entire process you must stay calm and patient or you are more likely to dog more harm than good. Guide your dog to the room as close as she will comfortably go and give her a treat. Walk away from the room with your dog and then come back, hopefully getting another step closer. Give her another treat. Keep going until your dog is calmly in the room. Sometimes you might have to do multiple sessions to get this far. Always end the sessions on a positive note. If your dog is not calm at the end of your session, that’s what your dog will remember and be even more anxious for the next session.
Once your dog is calmly in the room consistently. Close the door to the room with the object with you and your dog inside, if possible. If the room has no doors begin this next step with two leashes tied together to give the dog more freedom. At this point, if you can close the door, remove the leash and start interacting calmly with the object the dog fears, but ignore the dog. If your dog shows any kind of curiosity, toss a treat in her direction, but don’t speak and don’t make eye contact. They will show this through sniffing in the direction of the object, releasing tension in the body for a short length of time (sometimes only a half a second), or even take a step toward the object. Once again progress might take multiple sessions, but always end on a positive note.
For Tasha and the shower, it took over an hour the first time for her to even show any curiosity toward the shower the first time (and trust me, I was cold from sitting in the shower). Yes, we wasted a lot of water and I am sorry. Eventually, with lots of hard work, Tasha got to the point that she now showers instead of taking a bath. She doesn’t like it, but she doesn’t fear it either. Also, on a side note, while working with your dog to get over her fears, she will likely be extremely tired after your session. That is a lot of thinking and adrenaline to come off of, so give your dog some space to relax during that time period.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!