March 4

Scared of Teen


We just adopted a new dog. Bailey’s sweet and gentle with everyone. He really loves my 10-year-old son, but he seems a bit worried about my 15 year old. Whenever Trevor moves toward him, Bailey gets up and walks away. It hurts Trevor’s feelings. What can I do to help Bailey understand that he doesn’t need to be anxious around my teenage son? ~ Susan

Susan: Your teen’s body language and behavior now more like a man’s than a boy’s. Many dogs are more anxious around men than around women and children. Remind Trevor that dogs interpret straight-on approaches as more threatening than arcing, sideways movements. Perhaps in his eagerness to befriend Bailey, he is inadvertently scaring him by approaching too directly. Ask him to move a bit more slowly around the dog and to be aware of how he can make the dog feel more comfortable.

Sign up for a positive-reinforcement training class for Trevor and Bailey. Trevor can use delicious treats to train Bailey to spin, rollover, and give a high-five. Working on a few fun tricks will strengthen the relationship between your son and the dog. Take things slowly. Soon your dog will understand that everyone in his new family is gentle and caring, and that he has no reason to worry.



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  1. I have a similar issue, but it’s my 10 yr old girl that my newly adopted dog shows anxiety with. When she comes near he leaves the room or comes to me with nervous signals. When my adult sized 12 yr old boy comes in, he’s greeted with tail wagging and whines for attention. I don’t know why he’s stressed around her, but it’s breaking her heart and causing me a lot of fear and anxiety. She’s quiet and loving, and he responded well to her with our foster visit. I’m so upset about this.

    1. Hi Kelly, Sign up for a good positive-reinforcement training class that your daughter and dog can do together (with your help, of course). Training is a great way to build two-way communication. In the meantime, until you get to a class, buy a small treat bag that your daughter can wear and have her toss him a treat whenever he does something she likes (e.g., looks at her with a friendly face from across the room). He’ll quickly figure out that good things come from her, and she’ll soon notice that he’s more interested and more comfortable with her. If you have any concerns about safety, enlist a trainer to help with this initial stage so you can be sure they get off to a great start. Happy training!

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