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All dogs need to learn about the environment they live in. If they don't, they can have problems coping with life in general. Ideally this learning should begin when that are 12 weeks old, but if they don't have it, it's never too late to start.
Our environment is generally very busy, dangerous and frightening. When dogs aren't used to our world, they can react with with a 'fight or flight' response. This reaction is difficult to cope with, and really needs resolving. Otherwise related fears and anxieties can become very much worse.
Every dog needs to experience the world around them, it's a basic requirement for building confidence. It also helps to remove insecurities and allows dogs to live a relaxed and happy life.
Shopping centre car parks are a good place to start. You can begin by walking them round the quieter areas, moving to the busier areas and times as their confidence increases.
It is important that you don't react to them unless they are coping with things that are going on around them. Then it is best to give them quiet but confident praise, either a quick stroke or a really special food reward.
Little and often is the fastest way to gain benefit from this strategy. It is better that they stay for 2 minutes and don't have any reaction to things, than to stay for 10 and be allowed to react to their fears.
Build slowly in stages
Once the can cope with the quieter areas of the car park, you can walk closer to the busier parts, always ensuring that they are happy and reasonably confident to get closer to busier places.
If they become scared then simply go back to the stage you were at before, and repeat that until you feel they can cope with a little more pressure.
Once they are happy with a car park it is important that you take them to other places, so they can gain more experience of life. Any public place where there are activities they can cope with, is good.
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