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Scared Dog: Help Your Furry Friend

Dogs have a wide range of emotions. They are curious by nature, caring, and loyal, they get super excited to see you, and of course, they’re almost always playful. 

But, just like people, dogs also experience negative emotions like fear. And some dogs are fearful very often.

Whether being petrified is a natural state for your pup or because of a traumatic event, it's essential to figure it out and help your furry friend. 

Why is Fido frightened?

All dogs are different. Certain factors like breed, recent history, and personality traits all affect your dog and how it deals with the world around it. While some dogs are quite outgoing, others are timid and prone to anxiety.

There are some super-friendly, extroverted pups out there that are pretty much fearless. But, many shy animals jump at every little sound around. What makes a dog scared of everything, and why is your dog suddenly scared of something?

Most of the behavioral problems in dogs are rooted in fear. This can cause hyperactivity, aggression, and bad behavior when the dog is away from home. But, before you can help your dog, you first need to figure out what’s wrong.

Know the signs of a fearful dog

The only way you can help a dog that is afraid is by recognizing that they are experiencing fear. Here are the more common signs you have a fearful dog:

  • Frequent or constant pacing
  • Excessive panting 
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Restlessness
  • Hiding or cowering
  • A lack of appetite with food and treats
  • Distracted (will not respond to you)
  • Salivating or drooling
  • Yawning or tiredness
  • Constant licking of lips 
  • Whale Eye (a condition where the whites of the eyes are more visible)
  • Paw lifting
  • Lowered body language
  • Hyperactivity
  • Acting strange (scratching, quick bursts of energy)
  • Messing in the house
  • Reacting out of character
  • Aggressive behavior (growling)

If your dog is fearful and you notice these anxiety symptoms, they may have an underlying condition rooted in fear.

If you suspect your dog has this problem, consult a trained vet or behaviorist for more help with your dog.

Common fears that dogs experience

Maybe you just have a nervous dog, or it could be something more serious. Let's look at some of the more common reasons for your dog to react in fear. With a bit more knowledge, you can go to your vet with more than just - my dog is shaking and acting weird.

#1 Loud noises

Loud noises are by far the most prevalent cause of fear in dogs. Even within humans, sudden noises can be startling.

  • Is your dog scared of fireworks? This is one of the more common reasons for a fearful puppy. 
  • A dog scared of thunder is similar and also quite common. If left untreated, this fear could escalate into a phobia. Eventually, the dog may associate the loud sounds with a specific time of the day, like dusk. This means every time evening comes, the dog will go and hide in fear.
  • If this happens, you'll need to take your fearful dog to your vet and ask them to recommend a respected pet behaviorist.

As always, be attentive to your dog's needs and be a reassuring but firm source of comfort for your dog.

#2 Resource guarding

Have you ever found yourself thinking - my dog is scared of me, or angry with me, and wondering why they are behaving fearfully or angrily? Take a closer look at what your dog is doing, and you may find that they're guarding something precious to them. 

It may be their favorite ball, food, or even a place or a person. Pet parents must recognize that their furry friend is not afraid of them or angry with them. A dog's instinct will make them behave strangely when they are fearful of losing an important possession.

#3 Separation anxiety 

Dogs are social creatures. Their bond with their human companion is strong. Sometimes, dogs don't know how to deal with separation anxiety from their human companion and exhibit signs of fear.

Symptoms of your dog's separation anxiety can be very mild to very extreme. It can include: 

  • Excessive barking or howling
  • Chewing on furniture or household items
  • Being destructive
  • Improper toilet habits
  • Scratching or aggressive behavior
  • Panting or drooling 
  • Excessive biting or licking to the point of self-harm

Separation anxiety typically occurs later on in life once the puppy stage is over and the constant play and attention lessens. As natural pack animals, dogs still feel the need to have attention. 

To remedy this situation:

  1. Start slowly.
  2. Leave your furry friend alone for a few minutes at a time and return to reassure them.
  3. Do this a few times, and they will learn that it's okay to be alone; you'll be back! 

If you want to make sure your dog is okay when you're away, set up a webcam and monitor their behavior. If it exhibits a more severe behavioral reaction to your departure, talk to your vet for solutions like behavior therapy or even medication.

#3 Fear of other dogs

Dog to dog aggression is quite common in canine behavior. The extent of the aggression depends on the breed of dog, the dog's personality, and past experiences.

It may also depend on the dog's breed or the dog's individual personality and experiences. 

Your dog may have had a traumatic experience with other dogs in the past. Or, they may be more submissive to dominant dogs.

After all, dogs are pack animals and have pack behavior in which hierarchy is important and noticeable to other canines. 

#4 Fear of strangers

Some dogs become fearful of strangers after having a negative experience with a person or people they don't know. This is common in rescue dogs who have suffered abuse. It can cause reactive behavior, including fear-driven actions. 

This particular type of fear can include specifics like fear of males only, fear of people who wear hats or bulky clothing, or fear of somebody with a long object in their hand, like a broom or a stick. 

Desensitization and how it works

If you find yourself asking - my dog is scared of everything. What can I do? - one option is to try desensitization therapy.

  • This works through gradually introducing the dog to the situations, people, or places that trigger their fearful responses. 
  • Over time the fear becomes reduced as the dog experiences those triggers in a non-threatening environment.
  • Desensitization is particularly useful for a dog who is suddenly afraid of something or somebody new in the household.
  • To refine this technique of behavior training, find some online resources. There are many! However, it's always best to consult a veterinarian or behavioral specialist to work with your dog's unique needs and fears. 

Eventually, you'll be able to calm your dog down while addressing their fears and preventing them from becoming severe behavioral problems or phobias.

The scary truth

Some dogs are calm, and others are fearful of the world around them. Dog anxiety can be traumatic for the entire household, but there are ways to deal with it effectively. 

As a pet parent, you should learn how to calm down a dog in positive ways. Whether you do this by taking them to doggie therapy, giving them calming medication, or spending extra time with them, and giving them more attention, it's up to you to help your dog. 

You could even install a doggie ramp for your bed to make it easier for them to hop up and get cuddles! There are many options to help a scared Chihuahua or an Afghan Hound afraid of his own shadow. No creature should have to deal with fear on its own.

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