Should You Comfort Your Dog When It’s Afraid?

Summer weather means thunderstorms, and many dogs are scared by the loud noises. So should you comfort your pooch or just let him or her ride it out? Stanley Coren, Ph.D., author of “How to Speak Dog” says you should resist the urge to comfort.  He explains, “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.” The Humane Society echos this advice, writing, “Do not attempt to reassure your dog when she is afraid. This may only reinforce her fearful behavior […] Instead, try to behave normally, as if you don’t notice her fearfulness.” Dr. Daniel Mills, a veterinarian says that owners should “acknowledge the dog but not fuss over it. Then show that the environment is safe and not compatible with threat, by playing around and seeing if the dog wants to join you. But don’t force it. Let it make a choice.” On the other side of the argument is Dr. Melissa Bain, an associate professor of clinical animal behavior at the University of California, Davis, who says, “You can’t reinforce anxiety by comforting a dog. You won’t make the fear worse. Do what you need to do to help your dog.” (Mother Nature Network