The dog that is afraid of noise (thunder, gunshots, cars backfiring, etc) and the dog that is afraid of things (people, cars, other dogs, etc) can show its fear in many ways including hiding, cringing, shaking, or in aggression. The fearful dog should be obedience trained, then in a fearful situation, work especially hard on the “Down Stay”. This will help develop his self-control. The more positive structure he gets, the calmer and more confident he will become. Fearful dogs need to think of other things, and obeying you will help take his mind off his worries.
Do Not soothe, reassure, or coddle the fearful dog. You cannot make it better for him. While reassurance can be helpful with children, it’s a sure way to cause apprehension and anxiety in a fearful dog. Example: a sudden noise startles your dog, your rush to him saying “it’s alright, don’t worry, ..this reinforces the nervous reaction to the noise. The dogs reaction is..”if everything is fine,then just what are you so concerned about?” So completely ignore fearful behavior. Let him learn that yo will only reward him when he acts with confidence. Unintentional training — petting the dog when it shows signs of fear or aggression can do more harm. When you want to reassure or calm the dog what you are actually doing is telling him that it’s alright to be afraid.
If your dog is afraid of noises (thunder, guns,etc) get a recording of the sound and play it very low until the dog gets use to the sound, then increase the volume. Do this every day until the dog does not react to the recording. Afraid of the vacuum? Leave it set out, place treats near and on the vacuum and praise when the dog goes near it.
Dogs that are shy or fearful of people can react defensively when approached by strangers. They may growl, snarl, or snap. These behaviors must not be ignored. No dog should be allowed to get away with acting aggressively towards humans. The fact that your dog is shy is no excuse to condone growling or biting. You must instantly and effectively reprimand such behavior. As soon as he stops acting aggressively it is essential that you praise him. All reprimands must come from you. Do not let strangers reprimand your dog.
If your dog is afraid of people, but does not act aggressively, have people ignore your dog. Don’t let people make eye contact with your dog, let the dog make the move to go to the person. Let the dog investigate the person at its own pace. Tell people not to reach towards your dog. When the dog does approach a person, have the person squat down and slowly scratch the dog under the chin, never on top of the head.
Socialize, socialize, socialize. Exposing your dog to all sorts of sight and sound will help him to grow into a more stable confident animal.