My dogs aren't overly fearful though, so I don't know if that makes a huge difference. Basically, if we found something or a situation that made them uncomfortable, we exposed them to it a little bit at a time while keeping it positive. Like Jemma hates being blown on, but if every time somebody does that to her she gets a cookie or something positive happens, she becomes more tolerant. You have to start so gradually though.
The area I'm talking about is in Ahuntsic, but even then, within Ahuntsic, there are dog friendly areas.. My neighbors would scream at me if I walked by with my dogs, saying that I don't pick up (when we picked up after other people's dogs all the time). I would tell them if my two big doggies dumped on their lawn 3 times a day, they would know it really quickly. But it wasn't just one neighbor, it was about a half a dozen on our block. You basically had to sneak around with your dog. It was so stressful.
I was serious though, one guy sort of jingled his fingers to get Boo to bite them (we thought he was just being friendly with Boo at first) but Boo licked them instead and the guy started screaming that he was bitten- this was a middle-aged man in a business suit. There were also a lot of drunks coming out of the metro, and a few of them ran up to Jemma and Boo, meaning well, but being scary nonetheless. My babies never did anything. I would get them to come to me and sit between my legs where they feel protected and tell the drunks to bugger off. (heh heh, I read too many of Mel's posts..)
That's the main thing, I think, that has made a difference. I don't depend on my dogs to defend me, but the other way around. My dogs know that be it a dog or a human or whatever else, I'm there to protect my dogs from it. I get between them and the threat, and it allows them to feel safe enough to know that if I'm not stepping in and I'm not apprehensive, it's ok. Then again, after having had a lab who wanted to kill everything that moved, I might have become more aware of my surroundings...
After being up nights with both on different occasions, Jemma with horrible nightmares and Boo with anxiety attacks, they understand the words I use too. If I say "It's ok" or "It's finished", my dogs know what they mean. I'm sort of spoiled that way, in that I can communicate pretty well with my babies because I've been using the same words and phrases for 4 years now. Right off the bat, I used sentences to explain things to them- hey, if they have the capacity of a 2 year old, we should all be using sentences, IMO... It's hard to reassure a dog when they don't understand what you're saying without coddling it, and encouraging the fearfulness...
It's hard to explain over the internet, I guess. But if you run up to my dogs out of nowhere, they won't assume you have bad intentions.
Oh, what kind of doggies are they? Mutts... Jemma's lab husky and we think Boo is either pointer/newf or lab/dane. Big black scary dogs.