It may be surprising to see your dog being scared for no obvious reason. As a dog owner myself, I understand your parental instincts kicking in, and wanting to fix this situation. Each dog is different according to their age, breed, and the type of environment they grow up in, and so it’s up to you to pay close attention to your furry friend the specific condition they may be going through.
To help you with this, I have put together some possible explanations as to why your dog isn’t feeling their best and some possible approaches you can take to help remedy.
Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The most common source of fear in dogs can be separation anxiety. If your dog seems to be very attached to you, they could experience some anxiety when you are gone. The anxiety can become a concern if it seems to increase over time and can affect the dog’s mental health and safety.
Here are a few symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs –
- Chewing on furniture
- Restless – pacing around the house
- Barking excessively
- Panting and drooling in cool weather
There are some simple solutions you can put in place to keep your dog calm when you are not around. You can employ these tricks consistently over a long period of time to break your dog’s previous patterns and associations it has with separation anxiety –
Small Hello’s and Goodbyes – You can keep your greeting to your dog to the minimum when meeting or leaving them. An otherwise sudden burst of excitement can get them into a panic mode, reminding them that you are not always around. Using a soft voice when coming home or leaving is more than enough!
Avoid Leaving Routines – Your dog can quickly catch on to your leaving pattern such as picking up your keys and wearing your shoes. You can mix this up by changing your routine often so they don’t associate your actions with your departure. You can also have some activity with your dog before leaving, so they don’t feel like you left them hanging.
Background Sounds – Leaving a pet in a silent home can be overwhelming. You can leave your tv or radio on playing in the background when you are away. This could trick your dog into thinking someone is in the house, thereby elevating their anxiety.
Training Your Dog To Be Alone – As dogs are strong creatures of habit, you can train them to be alone with ease. Keeping them for a few moments in a room by themselves before opening the door for them, to show that you know they are there can build their confidence over time.
Although dogs usually chase away any unwanted visitors, such as pests, from their territory – it is possible that they can be afraid of them. Especially if the pests are present in many locations in the house, and are having unpleasant interactions, it can feel suffocating and threatening to the dog.
First, it would be important to get rid of the pests – ensure that the dog is taken care of at a distance if you are bringing in exterminators. At this time, positive reinforcement and providing comfort can help in a huge way.
Rough Training Methods
Dogs are very sensitive animals. Using punishment, either through hitting or yelling, does not help the dog in any way. It merely teaches them to be afraid of you and brace themselves to whatever you do. If this behavior is repeated frequently, your dog may be scared of you indefinitely.
This is largely evident in rescue dogs or those raised in puppy mills. The traumatic past continues to play a role in how they interact with any human being. It may be a little time-consuming, but there is a way to turn this around and reprogram your dog.
The best way to train your dog is to use positive reinforcement techniques. It is important for the owner to be mature in handling situations calmly. There are professional trainers available for hire to handle your dog’s behavioral challenges in an essential manner.
As it happens with humans, dogs can be quite disorientated after a nap. As they are confused about their surroundings they may bark, or hide behind furniture in their moments of fear and anxiety. This is common in older dogs that are taking a long time to respond to their surroundings.
Usually, these slumbers pass in a few minutes by themselves. You can choose to gently call their name or pat them to head to assure them that they are in a safe and comforting environment.
Dogs, especially ones with perky ears, have extremely sensitive hearing. It is a known fact that they can perceive sound frequencies beyond what humans normally can. Although a firework or thunderstorm may not be a big deal for us, it’s quite common for dogs to be scared when they hear these loud noises. Other such sounds could include the washing machine, the grinding of a blender, or fire alarms.
It is possible that the dog starts to avoid spaces such as the kitchen, afraid of the noises emitting from them. This can be addressed by displaying a lot of positive reinforcements. You can hold them, allow them on your lap, and or soothingly pet them during these noise episodes. Dogs usually aren’t that afraid once these loud or alarming sounds pass.
Similar to noises, dogs have a strong sense of smell. Yes, they do have a high tolerance for ‘bad smells’ like trash, poop, and more, but they can still be sensitive to some overbearing odors such as burnt toast and fertilizers.
Again, to avoid the fear of certain spaces, we can use a lot of positive reinforcements. Some smells such as bathroom cleaning products can be kept out of their radius and only used within closed doors. This can also avoid them from inhaling any toxic fumes.
A Dog’s natural response is to hide any of its health problems from its owner. If you notice them hiding from you and behaving anxiously around you, it’s possible that they are going through some pain within themselves. Fear too can be a byproduct of a health issue that the dog may be going through.
At first, you can do a quick examination of the dog’s face, teeth, nails, and belly yourself. If you notice changes in the dog’s behavior, it’s best to consult your vet – it could be an internal problem.
Although dogs are considered social creatures, they may not be as social toward other people. This can happen if the dog is not used to be around strangers from a very young age. Their territorial attitude may kick and cause them to be aggressive to a new face.
This can be addressed quite simply by –
Visiting Public Spots More Often – Either through daily walks or dog parks, you can keep your dog on a short leash until they feel comfortable and learn that the strangers aren’t threatening. You can try different walking routes and parks.
Allowing The Dog to Play With People – When the dog seems more ready, you can allow them to run around and pet amongst different kinds of people of different ages. This will avoid them getting comfortable with just one kind of person and being afraid of another kind.
I hope this compilation of explanations can get you started on figuring out why your dog may be afraid.
The sooner we identify the problem, the sooner we can fix it. Until then, ensure to be gentle and patient with your dog as this is an especially sensitive time for them.
Hope you found this article useful. Please feel free to share your comments below!