How to stop Fear in Dogs
We love our dogs, and we want them to be happy. The last thing we want to see is a scared dog.
Understanding the cause of the fear, and how to prevent it, is crucial to allow our furry friends to have a fear free life.
The Main Causes of Fear in Dogs
Most people do not realize that fear is a common problem with dogs, especially a new dog, as they do not know what to expect from you.
Fear in a dog is most often associated with anxiety and it can be hard for the pet owner to help their four-legged friend.
Dogs can suffer from all types of fears including fear of noise, fear of being alone, separation anxiety and fear of certain objects such as a vacuum cleaner. All of these can be solved!
Fear almost always comes down to two things...
Poor Socialization and Training
A Bad Experience
Socialization and Training
The early weeks and months of a dog's life are vital, and they need to learn early about the world around them.
From around 6 weeks old, for the next few months, it is vital to introduce carefully and gradually several things to your puppy.
- Meeting new people, in the home, and out and about, and learning they are safe
- Visiting different places, both quiet and nosier.
- Being introduced to friendly dogs.
The sooner this is done, the better a puppy learns to accept the world around them, and not be afraid.
Fear from a Scary Experience
This is the hardest to control, and often the hardest to deal with.
A puppy or dog that is attacked by another dog, that is left alone all the time as a puppy, or even tragically mistreated by a person, can be fearful of people, dogs or places.
But even here there are ways to help them.
How to spot the signs of Fear
No matter what fear your dog has trouble with, you can rest assured that you can comfort them and help them get over their fear.
The key to helping your pooch is knowing what causes their fear. This way you can help them work to get past it.
No matter how fearful your pet is, you can help by using patience, love and understanding.
But what are the signs of fear?
Some are obvious, some less so…
The last two may be surprising, but if your dog feels trapped from their fear, with no option for FLIGHT, they can then choose to FIGHT.
What not to Do
If you see any of these signs you should never ever punish them. If they are becoming aggressive, you must remove them from the vicinity. But do not smack or shout at them, as this will just reinforce the fear.
Your dog will see the body signs from you. So if your dog has a problem with other dogs for example, do not panic too, otherwise this can make your dog have a more extreme reaction.
Overcoming the Fear
One thing you do not want to do is give too much attention to the dog as they will start to think that their fears are justified.
Most dog owners want to reassure their pet that all is ok but they are really giving in to the fear, which will not help them at all.
There are other ways to calm your dog when they are showing fear or anxiety.
Keep yourself Calm
For instance, if they are afraid of thunderstorms, it is important for you to remain calm during a storm, showing your dog that there is nothing to fear. Your dog will look to you to see if there is a problem, so it is good to show them you are not afraid.
Reward the Puppy
Reward your pet for being calm in the presence of what scares them so they know that they are doing the right thing and that being calm is good for them.
You can use treats for praise when they are good so the dog associates being rewarded with the thing that scares them, rather than being coddled for the anxiety.
Ignore the Fear
Learn to ignore their behavior when they get scared. This will show that you will only pay attention to positive behavior. This is called positive reinforcement.
If your dog fears being left alone and shows behavior such as whining or chewing up things while you are gone, you will need to work on the separation anxiety.
Spend less time with them right before you leave.
Many pet owners give the pet extra love when they are getting ready to leave and this can make your pet anxious as they know that you will be leaving.
You can also leave the television or radio on so that your pet doesn't feel so alone. Hearing the human voices can be very comforting.
You can try doing short timeouts with the dog such as leaving them in one room for a period of time and praise them when you return for doing well.
Lengthen the times you are gone and keep doing the positive reinforcement so that soon enough, you will be able to leave your dog without any hassle.
For fear of people or dogs, gradual acclimatization can really help.
Introducing them to calm dogs, and people, in short periods, and inside and outside the home can show your dog that all is well.
It isn’t always easy, and in some cases hiring a professional dog trainer may be required.
Separation anxiety is caused by the dog's not being mentally prepared to be left alone.
One theory is that if the dog views itself as the alpha dog, then there is anxiety when the others leave because it is either worried for them, or because it's not acceptable for the followers to leave the leader. So the image that the dog has for itself is challenged.
Another view is that people make too much of a fuss when leaving the house like saying excessive good byes.
The dog picks up on this negative emotion and feels that leaving the house is bad. The way to overcome this is to make leaving as normal an activity as possible so that the dog doesn't see anything great in it.
Another option that is suggested by dog trainers is to keep them busy while they're gone. Sprinkle some food in such a way that they will have to work to find it! Or get some toy that has a reward mechanism.
If you have a dog that has a problem with fear, you can help overcome it in no time at all with the right behavior on your part. Always be consistent with your training and your pet can be free of fear before you know it.