Three main reasons for fear
Some dogs seem to be afraid of everything and some dogs seem to be afraid of certain things. Dogs who startle at everything and take a long time to recover, are not able to cope with the stress in their environment
- Some dogs seem to be born that way-This type of fear is called genetic and is passed through the genes of one or both parents.
- Lack of early learning and socialization- A dogs early learning and socialization period is shorter than ours and happens within the first three months of their life.
- Traumatic event-
Conclusion: Scary things happen and we can’t avoid that. Puppies and adolescent dogs go through phases when they startle at things. This is a normal reaction. A dog that startles at something and recovers quickly is a having a healthy response. A dog that continues to show fear even after the scary thing goes away or seems to take a long time to recover after the scary thing goes away is having an unhealthy response.
How fears develop
Dogs who have a genetic predisposition to fear and/or lack early learning and socialization are more inclined to be afraid of people, places and things that are unfamiliar. Things that happen suddenly or are hard to predict can cause the dog to develop panic attacks. Fear of being left alone can exacerbate this.
Unfamiliar people and animals
Direct eye contact
Smiling- showing teeth
Men, hats , sunglasses
reaching hand out-especially the back of a hand. It would be better to show the palm of your hand. Many dogs see think you have a treat to give them.
Sudden movements towards or direct approach
Unfamiliar sights and sounds
vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, skateboards
Things that happen in the environment that are hard to predict Thunderstorms and Fireworks
How do I know if my dog is fearful?
People and dogs have the same responses to fear. When we cannot cope when faced with something scary we have Fight, Flight and/or Freeze response. Even our expressions are similar.
The following video shows the subtle signs of what fear looks like in dogs
Avoidance and cowering, tail tucking, or refusing to move
More noticeable and potentially dangerous reactions
freezing and running away
Prevention, Safety and Management
Control the environment and try not to put your dog in situations that cause the fear and the reactions (behavior) to that fear. I have listed a few things that can help.
All the time- Products with vitamin B complex and sunflower lecithin can help support the central nervous system.
During stressful times-
- CBD Cannabis without the THC can be extremely helpful. THC can cause extreme fear in dogs and make your dog even more fearful. The CBD in cannabis counteracts the fear.
What to do when your dog becomes afraid
Get your dog away from the thing that is causing the fear. When your dog is afraid, don’t force him to do anything that causes more fear. Get him to a safe place
If your dog enjoys being petted, it can help to comfort and calm
How to Change the way your dog feels about the “Scary” thing
Expose your dog to the “scary thing” at low levels
It’s important to know you can’t change the way the dog feels when he/she is fearful.
Expose your dog to the scary thing at low levels and a safe distance. In order to do that you need to know this is called desensitization
Desensitization is accomplished by pairing an unpleasant thing with a pleasant thing. It changes the way your dog feels about the thing (trigger) that causes him to behave the way he does. This is done by presenting the trigger from a distance or level the dog is comfortable with and giving the highest reward. For example; you give your dog cheese or something the dog really, really, loves as soon as the stranger appears from a distance. If your dog always sits when you ask but doesn’t do it when the stranger approaches, you are too close. Start at the distance your dog is able to sit when asked.
Conclusion; the treat comes out when the “scary thing” approaches. The treat goes away when the “scary thing” goes away.
Change the behavior
When you change the way your dog feels about the thing that causes them to act the way they do, you can change the behavior. This is done by teaching an alternate behavior. The behavior you teach depends on the cause of the fear and how the dog behaves in the presence of the “trigger”