A Success Story of a Fearful Dog

Jessica Hoskins called me feeling distressed about her fearful dog. Tosha, a golden retriever, felt fear in the outdoor environment. The owner felt anxious every time she took her dog outside. When Tosha heard noises she wanted to dart back inside the house.

She couldn’t take her to public stores and parks because she didn’t want Tosha to have an awful experience.

She purchased the Calm Dog Program. Click on the link to learn more.

Jessica’s Review of Four Legged Scholars LLC

Johanna was helpful in getting to better understand what worked and how to work through my dogs fear issues. Johanna is knowledgeable in and explained to me behavioral aspects of dogs and how their brains processed things.

My 1 & 1/2 year old golden retriever (Tosha) was unable to go to the park without showing anxiety, scared of large objects and anything unfamiliar. When Tosha was in her heightened anxiety getting her to listen and focus was almost impossible.

After working with Johanna Tosha is able to go the park and relax in most cases, doesn’t fear some of the things she used to or to the extent she used to and overall able to focus on me when something does scare her or is unfamiliar.

Johanna provided ways to calm and acclimate Tosha to new things and situations and I now have the tools and knowledge to continue working with Tosha on these things.” – Jessica Hoskins with Tosha

Tosha, a fearful dog, came to us with numerous problems

Jessica lived in the country in Windham. As a result, gun shots would happen from nearby farms and hunters.

When Tosha was outside and heard these noises, she lowered her body posture and her body became stiff. She then would strongly pull on the leash to escape. When Tosha was in the neurotic state, Jessica was afraid of loosing her.

At a store or park, Tosha felt stressed and shut down. As a result, she ignored commands. When she was stressed, she pulled hard on the leash looking for the nearest escape route.

Whenever a box arrived on the porch or near the garage, Tosha became skittish and wanted to avoid the box at all costs. Due to the on going process of internet shopping, boxes showed up quite regularly.

Learn about Gunner, a cattle dog, who was also a fearful dog.

Fearful dog training with a cattle dog
Gunner, a fearful dog.

Reading fearful dog behavior

The first step was to teach Jessica about fearful dog behavior. Most of us have a general idea of what a fearful dog looks like. However, only a few of us can actually describe this behavior specifically.

When a dog feels scared, they want to look small. They may arch their back and will keep their body weight unbalanced. The bulk of their body weight will be toward their rear legs especially if the trigger (the fearful stimuli) is in front of them. That way they can easily dart backwards at anytime.

Their tail and ears will lower. Again making themselves look smaller. Sometimes the tail will be in between their legs.

They will generally lower their head. Their eyes may get big and round. Their pupils may dilate.

The mouth will generally remain closed. Panting may also occur.

The dog’s movements will be slow or jerky and fast. Freezing is possible too.

Tosha showed all of the above signs except the panting and eye dilation. However, if she panicked enough she might show those signs as well.

Training the basics

Tosha barley new any obedience commands. She definitely ignored them when she was stressed.

We taught her a few basics:

  • target
  • name recognition
  • come
  • watch


This command is great for fear issues. Target teaches the dog to touch your hand on command. With Tasha, when she felt fear she would freeze sometimes and not want to move. Asking her to target was a way we could get her to move toward or away from a fearful situation in a slow manner.

Training Target

Name Recognition and Come

These commands go well together. Getting Tosha to look at her owner and pay attention was crucial. We didn’t want her to block-out her owner when she felt scared. Instead, we want her to choose to listen.

She learned to look at Jessica when she heard her name. From there we could ask Tosha to do another command.

However, a common option would be to ask her to come. Tosha needed to learn this one as well. When she came to her owner she received high valued chicken. We wanted her to realize that this command was very powerful and to listen.

As a result, Tosha will be more likely to come to her owner instead of run off when she feels scared.

Training come


Most dog’s feel relaxed and safe when they look into their owner’s eyes. Just like we feel safe when we look into a lover’s eyes. As a result, this command can be very calming for a dog to learn.

We wanted this command to help Tosha decompress when she felt stressed. As a result, we taught her to follow a treat to look into her owner’s eyes. Once, she understood the meaning of the word, we took away the lure and had Tosha look into her owner’s eyes with just the command “watch.”

Training watch with a pit bull

Counter Conditioning for a fearful dog

This is crucial for progress. Pairing something positive with negative situations changes the brain. The dog begins to feel more relaxed and happy about the previously stressful situation.

For Tosha, we again used chicken. We did counter conditioning and systematic desensitization with boxes and loud noises. We started easy and then increased the criteria gradually while maintaining a positive association.

For noises we started with softer gun shots. Every time she heard a gun shot, Tosha received a piece of chicken. Eventually, the gun shots began to predict that chicken was coming. This drastically reduced her stress. Overtime, we gradually increased the volume of the gun shots.

For the boxes we started far away from one box. When she saw the box, she got chicken. Then chicken stopped when she was out of sight. We did training set ups so that we could make direct and consistent associations with the box and the chicken.

Then, we began to close the distance until she could walk right by the box calmly. Next, we generalized the behavior to boxes in other locations.

We have used counter conditioning with much success. Learn about Piper, border collie and Bella, a black lab. They both learned to overcome fearful problems.

Remedies can help fearful dogs too

For Tosha she really benefited from “Mylo Dog Anxiety Relief Calming Treats.” It had Suntheanine in it. Jessica would give this to Tosha twice daily. If Jessica new a scary situation was arriving, she would give Tosha the remedy a few minutes before the scenario happened.

We also tried the thundershirt which did not help in this particular case. It can help some fearful dogs.

You can click here to learn about other remedies that can help fearful dogs feel more calm.

Dealing with the outdoors with a fearful dog

After working in the home environment, we wanted to ensure training in the yard and at dog parks. As a result, Jessica’s homework was to take Tosha in her yard and massage her to help her relax on a blanket. She also gave Tosha a bone to chew. Chewing decreases stress. Still, she practiced the counter conditioning exercises, stated above, in the yard, as well.

We then went to Eagle Creek Nature’s Preserve in Garrettsville. At first, Tosha barely wanted to listen to any commands. Jessica brought the bone, and the blanket. We massaged her. We also played classical music which can lower a dog’s heart rate.

Bea a fearful dog

Overtime, she gradually begin to listen to commands in the outdoor environment. The progress was slow and gradual. Target, down and sit were the easiest for her to respond. Overtime, she became more responsive with come and watch as well.

Jessica learned to gradually help Tosha become more comfortable. She kept taking Tosha to Eagle Creek and practicing the above scenarios to help Tosha feel more relaxed. Tosha recovered from her fears slowly and felt much safer overtime.

Jessica now knows the tools to keep moving forward to help her dog learn that the outdoors can be safe as well.

Learn about other successful training methods for fearful dogs, by clicking here.

Johanna Teresi, a Middlefield dog trainer, loves working with fearful dogs

I am Italian so my behavior tends to be loud and
boisterous. Of course, fearful dog’s hate that kind of energy. As a result, I love working with them because it teaches me to be something that doesn’t come naturally to me.

I can also relate to the owner’s when they become distressed about the gradual slow process. Even still, I love training fearful dogs because I have learned to be more calm and patient.

Breathing, yoga, meditation, enjoying the moment and being conscious of my actions have helped me be able to work with fearful dogs successfully in Middlefield. I teach owner’s the same tools.

Learn about “The Calm Dog Programs,” Designed for Fearful Dogs

Cyndi Istre
Cyndi Istre
14:34 20 Apr 24
Johanna has been a God send inhelping us learn not only the basic ways of dog training but in how... we as humans contribute to our pups behaviors. Biting, jumping and potty training were our biggest challenges and accomplishments. Johanna provided us with the training and informational tools to be successful. She also provided guidance in changing our behavior and reactions to achieve the positive results we were looking more
Christina Fleck
Christina Fleck
18:11 15 Mar 24
Johanna has been super helpful and knowledgeable in helping me train our puppy. We went over... several techniques including practicing not pulling while on the leash. Our puppy is very responsive to the training tools Johanna has taught my children and me. She’s a wonderful person and a terrific trainer! Highly recommend!read more
Caleb Edwards
Caleb Edwards
19:11 20 Dec 23
Working with Johanna was an absolute pleasure and my crazy Corgi Skye enjoyed it very much as well.... Johanna was extremely diligent and patient with her and myself throughout our learning process. She explained the concepts very well and broke them down into simple to understand steps, which was super impactful for me. It’s a lot of information to learn at once but taking it a step at a time truly helps comprehension. She has helped us get Skye on track to being a calmer and more welcoming household dog and also helped us find better ways to get Skye’s energy out when she needs to. If you need assistance or advice on training or just being better connected with your pets, I would highly recommend Johanna!read more
Rosemary Krupar
Rosemary Krupar
18:04 01 Dec 23
Johanna's positive training system has not only helped our dog but has also helped us to be better... pet owners. By learning our dog's body language and applying our own calm demeanor and positive reinforcement, we can help her maintain her own level of calmness during what used to be stressful situations for her. The knowledge and the tools we have gained with Johanna have brought about a more peaceful and pleasant relationship with our dog, Ginny. We highly recommend Johanna for your dog training more
Kathleen Clyde
Kathleen Clyde
17:25 22 Sep 23
Johanna is a really special trainer. We signed our rescue dog Scout up for training because she... almost ran away chasing deer in our neighborhood. Scout also pulled really hard on the leash and I was afraid someone might fall when walking her.Johanna helped us fix all that and more. Scout is a boxer hound mix, so her smell/chase instinct is really strong. Using all positive reinforcement, we were able to train her to go "easy" on our walks and not pull the leash. Scout also comes when we call her, even facing tough distractions like other dogs or food. We can now walk her off leash on trails and be confident she'll stay near or next to us and not run off chasing something. She also learned other commands like sit/stay, go get it, and lay on your bed.We humans were trained too! We learned what harness and leashes to use, which treats were best, when to treat her, how to get her interested in training, how to progress through a more complex command, and more. Johanna really knows both animal and human psychology, and working with her was such a fulfilling and rewarding experience — well worth the investment. Scout loved her and we did too. We cannot recommend her strongly enough!read more
Christi LaPrairie
Christi LaPrairie
17:58 16 Sep 21
I felt pressured to pay prior to services.
Donna Shaffer
Donna Shaffer
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Our dog, Bella, was skittish around new people. She would bark and growl. Our veterinarian... recommended training. We contacted Johanna from Ohio4LeggedScholars. Johanna taught us counter conditioning and commands paired with treats. Bella has responded well to the training. She has become more comfortable with new people and new situations. We learned to watch Bella's body language to know when she is feeling confident and comfortable.Thank you Johanna!read more
rachel downey
rachel downey
19:32 23 Aug 18
I love them. Before they came, my dog max, didnt know how to sit for anything, he kept pulling on... the leash when we went for walks on our road, and he kept not waiting when we tried to take him out. He would bolt out. Now he sits a waits for the leash to get it on him. Hes such a great listener more
Stacey Brazie
Stacey Brazie
00:23 26 Jul 18
We were ready to rip our hair out when I found Johanna online. I contacted her and discussed our... problems with our 1 year old Lab Laney. She was jumping on us, afraid of people, barked at everyone/everything that walked by, walked horribly on a leash, and barged at the door when someone was there. Johanna immediately reassured me that she could help! She taught us the different signs that our dog gives us. She also taught us about counter conditioning. She gave us the tools we need to change Laney’s behavior. It is not an overnight fix. You need to be able to work with your pup until it sinks in. Laney has made much improvement in all areas! We are grateful to have found Johanna!!!read more
David McCoy
David McCoy
02:49 21 Jun 18
Four Legged Scholars provided our family with the expertise and guidance needed to train our new... puppy Drew. Trainer Johanna Teresi was the perfect person to help us. Johanna's calm demeanor, excellent knowledge and organized approach allayed any fears that we had about dog training. Drew responded well to her weekly training visits and our ongoing daily training routines. My family wholeheartedly recommends Four Legged Scholars and Johanna Teresi as fantastic and caring solutions when one considers the best method to train your dog.Dave McCoy Ravenna, Ohioread more
Karen A
Karen A
20:25 10 Jun 18
I contacted Johanna when Cooper was almost 6 months old. He had major issues with jumping on... people and constantly barking at other dogs. I was impressed with her persistence and patience when training. She probably spent as much time training me as we spent training Cooper. Classes are over for now and Cooper has met all but one of the goals that we set for him. Johanna has given me the tools and techniques to continue to train him, and I am confident that he/we will someday be able to walk in the park without his barking at every dog he meets. Taking the class has and will continue to benefit my relationship with Cooper for years to come. Thank you more
Sandy Bailey
Sandy Bailey
00:19 12 Mar 18
Johanna Teresi with Four Legged Scholars helped my husband and I so much with our Chocolate Lab,... Autumn. It has been years since we have had a puppy and forgot how much work they can be. Our major concern was how excited Autumn would get when we would get company or our grandchildren would come over. Autumn would jump on everyone. The little kids would get knocked down. My husband and I finally said, we're calling for help and called Four Legged Scholars and spoke with Johanna. Johanna was able to see what we were doing wrong and how we were causing more stress for Autumn by being stressed ourselves and within a few sessions we could see a hug change in Autumn's behavior. Johanna showed us how to react to Autumn"s jumping on our guest. We let all our guest know how to respond if Autumn tried to jump on them and they were all great about helping with the training. We providing a video to Johanna that my grandson took while having a birthday celebration with a house full of people. Johanna was able to look at our video and see that her techniques were working and she could see the improvement in Autumn the next time she came to our door. Autumn's behavior is so much better and we are not afraid for guest to come over or be embarrassed at Autumn"s behavior anymore. The leash training was also extremely helpful. Autumn was constantly biting at her leash and actually had bitten them to the point of breaking her leashes. I was amazed at how the clicker training works, but it was great.Thank you Johanna!read more
Portage Rescue
Portage Rescue
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Johanna has been volunteering her time at the County Dog Warden for several months. I love her... positive methods. She is very patient with the dogs even when they are acting hyper. Johanna explains everything to me and takes notes so I know what she has done with each dog. I strongly recommend her progressive and positive methods. She has helped me learn so more
Jamie Flanders
Jamie Flanders
19:34 17 May 17
Johanna was a mentor for me when I was first starting out as a dog trainer. I took my very first... puppy class through her with my very first puppy. Johanna is unfailingly kind, not only to the dogs that she works with but the people as well, which is a great trait for a dog trainer to have. Many trainers can work with dogs but have very poor people skills but if you want to make a difference for the dog you have to be able to reach the person. Johanna helped shaped me into the trainer I am today and with her initial guidance my puppy turned into a great companion and more
Robyn Jones
Robyn Jones
01:26 13 May 17
Johanna Teresi with Four Legged Scholars is an incredible trainer. She constantly goes above and... beyond the expectations of her clients. I watched her train her own dog in the kindest of ways. She thinks so easily from the perspective of the dog, and is always making sure that the dogs needs are being met as well as the owners needs (both emotional and the training goals). Her classes move smoothly as she is very knowledgeable about all things positive reinforcement. She uses the clicker training and it works magically. She really knows her stuff and uses those skills fantastically. She is the only trainer I'd let help me train my more
Ruth Weisman
Ruth Weisman
20:22 12 May 17
I had the opportunity to observe Johanna's work for about two years. She is committed to ethical... training through humane practices and tuning herself and her clients to their dog's behaviors and needs. In her own home she focused on addressing even the comfort level of her dog as her family grew, making sure that he felt safe with an over excited toddler as well as successful training to lessen his barking at the door. I highly recommend Johanna for both basic dog training and specific needs. She'll tailor the training to suit your pet and your more
Angie Kieffer
Angie Kieffer
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I met Johanna about 8 years ago, and I was a full-time parent. I had four kids and four animals.... One of my dogs needed training. I see my animals as equals, so I was looking for a positive way to connect with my dog that didn’t involve alpha rolls. One of my dogs, Karma, was very skittish.I had Johanna come to my home. She taught me that my feelings of anxiety were being projected on my dog. I learned to shift and let go of my thoughts and emotions especially around fear and anxiety. I was then able to be more present and focused with Karma. She was able to release her anxiety. Karma has gained more confidence around people, places, dogs, grooming, and other animals such as horses and cows. Johanna taught me how to allow Karma to have her own experience and to not project my own life experiences and thoughts onto my dog.Working with Johanna was a rewarding opportunity. I would recommend Johanna to anyone looking for a successful option to positive reinforcement training with their more
Susan Steinwand
Susan Steinwand
17:28 10 May 17
I volunteered with Johanna for about one year, attending and assisting in her group courses.... Having met numerous dog trainers using varying training techniques, I can say with confidence that Johanna truly cares about her clients, both human and canine, and will work together to ensure a happy, understanding relationship between pet and owner. She teaches with positive methods that help owners understand how to effectively and kindly communicate with their dog, which results in better training outcomes. One thing that makes her training unique is that she not only focuses on how to modify the dog's behavior, but also helps owners understand how their actions can affect the dog's behavior, and how changing them can help the dog to learn more quickly.I have been using Johanna's training methods with my own dog, Aspen, and in the short time we have had her, she has already learned so much and we have clear, mutual understanding of each other. Whenever I have difficulty with training a behavior, or get frustrated, I think back to Johanna's words and am able to re-approach the situation and get better results.I highly recommend Four Legged Scholars for anyone seeking help training their dog. Johanna creates an open, fun, and accepting environment where owners can learn how to have a loving relationship with their well-behaved more
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