Bravery Class for Shy Dogs

Shy/fearful dogs often can’t enjoy common dog activities in the city because of their anxieties. Our Bravery classes provide a calm, quiet classroom environment that is uniquely suited for safe and comfortable relationship-building between owners and their shy dogs. Because each shy dog is different, we offer two different Bravery tracks – “People” and “Environments.” Both classes include focus-to-handler exercises, mat work, confidence building and searching games.  The instructor will coach handlers on reading their dog’s body language, prioritizing safety and going at their own dog’s pace.

The “People” Bravery class is intended for dogs who may be scared when they see strangers outside on walks or meet new people outside or inside the home. This class helps dogs focus on their handlers in the presence of people, builds positive associations with seeing people, and boosts confidence working in the presence of people. 

The “Environments” Bravery class is intended for dogs who are unsure or fearful when they are outdoors, in new places or in particular environments, and who may be fearful of noises or easily startled when outside. This class helps dogs to focus on their handlers amid distraction, builds positive associations to new situations, environments and sounds, and boosts dogs’ confidence exploring and interacting with new objects and scenarios.

The classroom setup provides a quiet environment in which dogs are visually separated from other dogs and people for most of class.

These classes are designed for dogs who may withdraw, avoid, cower, shy away, stall, or hesitate when uncomfortable, or who may be overwhelmed or shut down when in a standard group class setting. 

These classes are not suitable for dogs who have shown fear-based aggression or reactivity towards people or dogs, including lunging, snapping, barking or having a history or incident of having bitten previously. If your dog fits this description, your needs will be better met by working with a private trainer (either here or at home), or a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist who can help with a more personalized, low-stress training plan. 

For dogs who may find the classroom environment overwhelming, we also offer a limited number of auditing spaces for guardians who wish to learn class exercises and apply them in the comfort of their own home.  Auditing spaces are $75 per person for the 5-week class. Contact us at 415-522-3509 if you'd like to audit a class.

Dogs are welcome to take both the People and Environments classes, but please register for only one class at a time. 

If you have more than one dog in your home that you’d like to enroll in Bravery class, please register only one dog per class at a time.  

Frequency & Duration: Our standard Bravery classes are 1 hour per week for 5 weeks. The first class meeting is a mandatory humans-only session, meeting jointly on Week 1 from 6:30 - 8:00 pm.

Fees: $175 per dog (If your dog was adopted from a shelter or 501(c)(3) rescue group, the fee is $155). 

Course prerequisites: Dogs must be 5 months or older and current on all vaccinations, including rabies, to participate. These classes are not suitable for dogs who have shown aggression or reactivity towards people or dogs, including lunging, snapping, barking or having a history of having bitten previously. If you are not sure if this class is appropriate for your dog, please email or call 415-522-3509 before registering.

Location: SF SPCA Mission Campus Multi-Purpose Room, 243 Alabama Street

Class includes: Handbook and soft-touch clicker

Class capacity: 6 dogs

Instructor: Althea Karwowski, CPDT-KA


If you would like to register for a Bravery class, please fill out the Bravery Questionnaire. The instructor will review your form, and then we will contact you directly for registration.

Please review our class policies before enrolling in a class.

Upcoming Classes:

  • People - Mondays, July 29 - August 26, 6:15 - 7:15 pm with Althea: Sorry, this section is full.
  • Environments - Mondays, July 29 - August 26, 7:30 - 8:30 pm with Althea


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