To treat or not to treat? That is a very common question.
My personal dogs accompany me at my job where I work as a medical and behavioral specialist at a dog farm where dogs with behavioral issues are safe to board and behavioral assessments are performed to pair those with compatible personalities in a play group or alone to run 3 acres of property with me and a ball. I also train dogs here. We board from 5-20 dogs on a regular basis so the likely hood of my dogs walking into a barn full of different scents is very high so as soon as they walk through the door which is usually welcomed with barking, they enter their assigned crates and get busy enjoying their frozen wet food stuffed Kongs which makes me think about a common question people ask me: “Do I give food to my dog when he is scared? Aren’t I condoning/rewarding his fear, then?” My dogs aren’t in the safety of their home which means there is always going to be some anxiety and fear especially since the boarding dogs are always changing and there are so many smells. I give them treats right away to keep them distracted and to help calm them. If you remember from your biology class, the parasympathetic nervous system turns on during rest and digest. When your dog is in a fearful state, his sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” response is on overdrive and giving them a treat will help switch over systems. So my answer to whether or not you should give treats to a dog who is scared is a big fat YES as you cannot reward an emotional response. However, dogs who are terrified will not eat and this is a good indication that your dog is over his threshold and that you should remove him from the situation. If your dog is not a foodie, use affection or toys as a “treat.”