To survive in the wild, doggy ancestors needed to be cautious and occasionally ferocious. In extremes, anxiety can cause a scared dog to resort to aggression when placed in a fearful situation.
Scared Dog | Recognizing The Signs & Know What To Do
hFear interferes with learning positive lessons, and a scared dog may instead learn that snarls and biting make scary situations go away. That rewards them for acting aggressive when they’re scared.
Nobody wants to be scared. It’s a miserable feeling for dogs and for the people who love them. Dogs can’t think straight when afraid. They may hurt themselves or others when trying to get away from the scary situation by going through windows or running into traffic. Pain, illness, or a weird sight and sound (fireworks!) can lead to fear. Later, your dog may associate similar situations (a car ride to the vet) with the unpleasant experience and become fearful even without an obvious cause.
15 SIGNS YOUR DOG IS SCARED
Even normally friendly pets can become dangerous to you and others when in the throes of fear. When the perceived “threat” goes away though, scared dogs get over the fear in about ten to twenty minutes. Meanwhile, it’s important to recognize the typical signs your fear for when dog is scared. Touching or talking to frightened dogs just makes the panic worsen. Signs of anxiety include:
- Furrowed brow
- Whale eye (showing whites of eyes)
- Increased heart rate
- Increased panting
- Looking away
- Pinning ears back
- Tucking tail
Some types of fear will never go away. However, usually you can help to make your dog feel better. Your veterinarian may prescribe drug therapy that relieves the angst, but drugs alone aren’t a cure-all.
By being sensitive to what causes fear reactions, you can help your dog avoid them or learn newer, more positive associations. For example, you can teach the dog that trips to the veterinarian mean treats and petting, rather than the scary needle sticks or rude thermometers. Also, look for veterinarians and clinics that have gone through “Fear Free Certification” to help pets feel more happy and comfortable during visits.
- Identify all the different sights, places, sounds, odors, people or other things that cause your dogs to feel fearful. Thunder? Car rides? Strange men? Other dogs? Before you can help, you must know what prompts the fear.
- Play builds confidence. When your dog is fearful of the other dogs, encourage them to play tug-o-war games with a gentle canine playmate. Limit your shy pup’s interaction to only one or two other dogs at a time, not the entire six-pack. That way your dog isn’t totally overwhelmed.
- Fearful dogs can be hand shy, especially if they’ve been abused. Avoid petting doggy heads and instead pet the chest and ears.
- Don’t stare. Strong eye contact is a dominant-dog behavior and can be intimidating. Glance away while petting your shy dog and pretend to yawn, which is a canine “calming signal” that tells them you mean no harm.
- Standing over the top of small dogs intimidates them, but squatting can also seem scary. When you see a scared dog, sit on the floor some distance away, ignore them, and let the dog come to you.
- Use pheromone products to relieve your dogs’ fear. These are available as infused collars, sprays, and plug-in diffusers.
- Shy and fearful dogs become more fearful if given choices, so provide lots of direction and create a schedule so your fearful dog knows when to expect meals, a walk, potty breaks, and everything else. Routine builds security that allows shy dogs to become more relaxed.
- People often feel protective of lap-sized breeds and carry them everywhere, but this will encourage shyness and tells tiny dogs the danger is real. Allow small dogs to keep four paws on the ground, and they’ll be more confident as a result.
- Reward your dog for brave behavior at home and the vet. Choose a tasty treat he only gets at these times — maybe aerosol cheese, for example. Give your dog treats at one end while the vet (or your spouse) trims their nails at the other end. Your canine buddy won’t even be bothered as long as the yummies keep coming!
National Geographic shows us what a scared dog is like and how the Dog Whisperer identifies those signs and handles scared Willie: