It’s not usually hard to spot when your dog is afraid of something. They’ll often immediately show us that something is wrong in one way or another. Most of the time your dog will act differently such as flattening their ears or scratching themselves. In the most extreme cases, a dog who is afraid of something may bite out of fear. It’s important to understand what could be wrong and support your dog through their fears and anxiety.
In this article, we’ll discuss common fears for dogs and how they present. We’ll also provide you with some tips on reducing your pet’s fears and supporting them through these unpleasant feelings. Just like humans, dogs get anxious or scared in certain scenarios and it’s completely normal that they may experience fear from time to time.
Common Fears of Dogs
Thunder – Thunder and, thunderstorms are one of the top things that dogs are often scared of. But why is my dog afraid of thunder? The loud and startling booming is enough to scare anyone, and our four-legged friends are no exception. But unlike humans, dogs may experience physical shocks from static electricity during these storms. The Dog People provides a great resource for understanding why thunderstorms can be especially traumatic for dogs.
Fireworks – Fireworks are another common fear for dogs. The loud sounds that fireworks make are very frightening to dogs who have more sensitive hearing than humans. Many dogs react to fireworks by running away and sadly many dogs become lost during firework shows. Know this, it may be safest to keep your dog at home and away from crowds during fireworks.
The Vet – Many dogs experience fear or anxiety when they make a visit to their Veterinary Clinic. The smells and sounds can trigger negative emotions from past experiences for some dogs. If your vet offers it, it may be a good idea to have at home visits for dogs who have extreme difficulty with attending a veterinary appointment.
Car Rides – Some dogs love riding in a car, while others find the experience scary and stressful. Cars can be loud and unfamiliar to dogs. Additionally, many dogs experience motion sickness while being driven in a car. Unpleasant past experiences may also contribute to dogs being afraid of riding in a car. If you must take your anxious dog in the car with you, consider using a PawPad® to help keep them comfortable and your seats protected while you travel.
Separation or abandonment – Being alone can cause some dogs to feel anxious and afraid. This may be due to past trauma, a fear of abandonment or simply stress from moving or lifestyle changes. If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety, consider speaking with your Veterinarian for help with addressing this issue.
Being in the dark – Sometimes dogs seem anxious or scared of the dark. But why is my dog afraid of the dark? Fear of the dark in dogs can sometimes be related to separation anxiety. Sometimes when we leave our animal in the dark to sleep on their own, they get scared. Our article “Where Should the Dog Sleep?” provides some insight into why allowing your dog to sleep in the bed with you is a great idea.
Unknown objects or sensations – If you’ve ever wondered, why is my dog afraid of hardwood floors? Or, why is my dog afraid of water? It might just be because these things are unknown to them. Unfamiliar sounds or sensations make them scared. Hardwood feels hard and makes a lot of noise as dogs walk across it, water can be an unpleasant sensation at a groomer’s or while going swimming for the first time. Sometimes these fears can resolve through repeated but delicate exposure and an understanding that the unknown won’t hurt them.
How Your Dog Shows Their Fear
Dogs may show you that they are scared in a variety of ways. Sometimes these signs will be more obvious than others, so it’s important to pay close attention to your dog’s behaviour in order to help them when they need it. Below are some common behavioural and physical signs that your dog is scared of something.
Behavioural indicators of fear in dogs:
- Barking directed towards the cause of fear
- Whining and looking for attention
- Hiding and running away
- Growling at what scares them
- Pacing back and forth
- Destroying objects in your home
- Clinging on to you
Physical indication of fear in dogs:
- Trembling and shaking
- Loss of control over bodily functions such as urination
- Dilated pupils.
How Can I Help My Scared Dog?
It can be tough to watch your dog struggle with fear. Though every dog will respond differently to you comforting them, in many cases you should be able to help your dog by supporting them through their fears. When appropriate it may be easier to simply avoid scenarios or objects that make your dog scared. We understand that this isn’t always possible or practical.
When your dog is scared by something that is unexpected or comes on suddenly, such as a thunderstorm, offer lots of support. Take them somewhere safe like your bedroom and be their presence of calm. If your dog’s fear is something like a trip to a Veterinarian or a car ride, have a plan to make the trip as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Shorten the length of the trips at first until they seem more adjusted. Offer treats and talk to your dog in a warm manner in order to ease their fears.
Sometimes despite your best efforts, some dogs will need professional assistance with coping with fear. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your Veterinarian for support in helping your anxious dog feel most comfortable. In some cases, this might mean medication. No matter what you do, putting your dog's needs first will be appreciated by your dog.