There are many instances when your dog may get scared, including strangers after a negative experience, firecrackers, loud noise, and even lighting.
The fear in dogs often leads to reactive behavior where they may become violent and destructive, including biting people and hiding.
Your dog may exhibit tell-tale signs when they are scared.
Therefore, you should start with reading their body language to ascertain their situation and provide support.
Here is a guide to help you recognize when your dog is showing signs of fear, anxiety, or stress.
What Are the Signs of Fear in Dogs?
A fearful dog exhibits multiple signs and behaviors that may look unnatural or unusual.
You can easily pick up on the hint that your dog is fearful, anxious, and stressed by looking at their body language, behavior, and physical behavior.
Body Language of a Fearful Dog
The change in body language is one of the most accessible signs of a fearful dog.
You should lookout for the following signs.
- Flattened ears
- Lip licking
- Tail tucked between the hind legs
- Raised fur on the back of the neck
- Avoiding eye contact
- Frequently scratching
Common Behaviors Exhibited by a Fearful Dog
In addition to body language, look out for these signs.
- Growling or Barking
- Snapping or Biting
- Clinginess to owner
Physical Signs of a Fearful Dog
Finally, these are the significant giveaways of fearful dogs.
- Dilated pupils or seeing the whites of a dog's eyes
- Loss of control over bowels or bladder
8 Most Common Fears in Dogs
Most fears in dogs inculcate from adverse experiences that may eventually turn into Phobias.
Lack of early-age socialization, negative experiences, and genetics are few major reasons that make dogs fearful.
Here is the list of the eight scariest experiences in the life of dogs.
The fear of thunderstorms is one of the most common phobias in dogs.
A study indicated that the loud cracking noise of thunder is the most probable cause for fear, mainly because dogs' hearing is 2-3 times more sensitive than humans.
Thunderstorms also alter the atmosphere by releasing a large amount of static electricity into the air that dogs experience as electric shocks.
Vetstreet’s Dr. Marty Becker and many veterinarians worldwide agree that rubbing your dog’s coat with a dryer sheet can be pretty effective at minimizing static.
Fireworks produce a loud noise and frightening odor that does not go down well with your dog.
A 2013 study by the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences found the number one trigger for fearful behavior.
Along with loud noises, the gun powder used in fireworks produces a foul smell picked up by your dog's nose, which may create an awful experience.
Comforting your dogs and avoiding keeping them near to fireworks may prevent a frightening experience.
3. Car Rides
Most dogs are fearful of car rides, mainly because of motion sickness, anxiety, and claustrophobia induced by car rides.
It is pretty high on the list of common phobias in dogs.
Therefore, introducing your dog early to car rides can help offset negative experiences.
Veterinarians suggest to introduce dogs to car rides at an early age. Adding a dog seat in the car helps to offset the dizzying effect.
Not all dogs are scared of stairs unless they are unfamiliar with climbing or had a traumatic experience before.
In some dogs, the fear of stairs may come from restrictions in the past, causing a negative association.
Introducing them to stairs at an early age may help offset negative association with stairs.
A combination of counter-conditioning, desensitization and plenty of patience can help your dog overcome the fear.
For older dogs suffering from arthritis or hip dysplasia, keeping them away from stairs to prevent fear is advised.
5. Vet Visit
Pups that are unfamiliar with veterinarian offices are scared of visiting the vet.
The frightening sights, sounds, and smells of veterinarian offices may induce fear in dogs.
The dogs that have a frightful experience such as surgeries may also be fearful of vet offices, so much so that taking them close to one may induce anxiety and nervousness.
Conditioning them to vet offices by friendly visits and treats may also help overcome the fear.
Otherwise, take up home or mobile vet visits until your dog overcomes the fear.
Like us humans, dogs are prone to experience separation anxiety when their favorite companion leaves them for a while.
Dogs that are suffering from separation anxiety may become fearful, upset, and in some cases destructive.
According to ASPCA.org,
Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme, resulting in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.
Consider using the treatments; training and counterconditioning therapy, anxiety medication, and socialization and obedience training to help offset the fear of loneliness and separation anxiety.
Dogs that are not socialized early may become fearful of people and may start exhibiting signs of anxiety when brought close to one.
The dogs that had a negative experience with people, such as abuses, may also become fearful and avoid human interaction.
For this reason, dog trainers and veterinary professionals recommend socializing your dog early and often.
Consider using 100 positive experiences to help overcome the fear of people in your dog.
8. Other Animals
The fear of other animals in dogs is often connected to their level of exposure to social situations.
Pups separated from birth families may become fearful of their kind, and lack of early socialization may make them scared of other animals.
In some cases, traumatic experiences such as harmful interactions and aggressive behavior may make them fearful of other animals.
Early socialization, professional training, and gradual rehabilitation may help overcome their fear of other animals.
How to Approach a Fearful Dog
When approaching a fearful dog, try out these tactics instead.
- Do not loom over your dog, which may make them more anxious.
- Turn slightly, so your side faces the dog and even leans slightly away from them.
- Get down on their level and do not put yourself in front of their face.
- Avert your gaze to avoid direct eye contact
- Do not speak in a high-pitched voice as it may induce more fear.
- Never punish a fearful dog as it introduces a negative experience in them.
- Keep them away from fearful objects or situations.
- Give them space and time to approach the objects of their fear on their own.
How to Treat a Fearful Dog
The techniques to treat a fearful dog may depend on the level of their fear and what caused them to be frightened.
Dogs fearful of other animals and people may require gradual socialization and rehabilitation, while those afraid of sound, noise, or smell may require therapies and medications.
According to the Spruce Pets,
Highly fearful dogs typically require professional help. Good dog trainers go far beyond obedience issues and are better qualified to retrain an exceedingly afraid dog.
Dogs that do not respond to behavioral approaches may need the use of medications to prevent anxiety.
Medication can become a valuable tool to reduce your dog's anxiety and fear, but it should not be the only form of treatment.
Desensitization and Counter-conditioning
The goal of desensitization and counter-conditioning is to decrease the reaction to specific stimuli.
According to PetMD,
Desensitization is the repeated, controlled exposure to the stimulus that usually causes a fearful or anxious response.
Unless you know the desensitization process, it is better to talk to professional trainers to diagnose and treat extreme fear.
Before treating your dog with fear, consider getting in touch with a Veterinarian in Urbandale to diagnose the problem.
Check this infographic out for more information.
If you are wondering when your dog is not fearful, look out for these signs.
- Relaxed body posture
- A soft open mouth
- Relaxed eyes
- Relaxed ears
- Loose wagging tail
- Playful behavior
It may not be easy to offset extreme fears in dogs; however, a proper diagnosis and gradual treatments (medical and behavioral) may help prevent the onset of fear, anxiety, and stress.
Urban Pet Hospital is the best pet hospital in Urbandale, with some of the most reliable veterinarians, trainers, and groomers at your service.