What are 10 of the most common dog fears and phobias? Why are our beloved pets afraid of these things at all? Take a look at our list in this article and keep your pup calm throughout the holidays and beyond!
What Causes Fears and Phobias in Dogs?
There are three main types of anxiety that commonly lead to fears and phobias in dogs! These will cover nearly all the anxiety related problems you can ever think of or probably will ever deal with. These include:
Fear Related Anxiety
This covers things like the fear of loud noises (thunder, fireworks, etc.), fear of injury or harm, etc.
Separation anxiety is a very common problem with dogs left alone for an extended amount of time! The fear of abandonment is actually the very first fear we cover because it is so common.
Age Related Anxiety
A dog tends to experience more anxiety as he reaches an advanced age. Age related anxiety is a very common issue in older dogs! Some dogs deal with a canine form of dementia, similar to Alzheimer’s in humans and enhancing anxiety.
10 Reasons Dogs Fears and Phobias
Did you think loud noises or frightening animals would be the most common fear or phobia in dogs? Did painful stimuli, such as a jolt from an electric collar, rank high on your imagined list?
Believe it or not, the fear of abandonment is the most common cause of anxiety in dogs! Separation anxiety is an extremely common problem among dog owners, and you may have even dealt with it yourself.
Dogs are very social creatures. The idea of being left alone to fend for themselves is often terrifying!
2. Fear of Thunder
A phobia of thunderstorms is another extremely common fear countless dogs deal with! Dogs don’t understand the reason for these sudden, booming explosions, and not knowing why something is happening can terrify them.
Dogs are also much more sensitive to sounds than we humans are.
3. Fear of Fireworks
The 4th of July can be a very hectic time for our dogs! Loud fireworks fall under noise phobia, just like thunder. Because they occur even less frequently, our dogs have fewer opportunities to desensitize to fireworks.
Unpredictable fireworks can be seen as a possible threat. This can be made even worse because our dogs often have no clue where the sound is coming from or what is causing it!
4. The Veterinarian
Countless dogs are afraid of the veterinarian, and it usually isn’t due to needles! Dogs usually can’t feel these subcutaneous injections.
Imagine all of the countless new smells a dog is bombarded with upon entering the vet’s office! Thousands of other animals have likely been through, hundreds of dogs leaving their mark. That alone is enough to leave an animal with such a strong sense of smell on edge!
Along with that, you have a strange human physically handling your dog. Unless a dog is extremely well socialized and desensitized to the touching of strangers, this can seem uncomfortable.
Finally, dogs may relate injuries or uncomfortable treatments to the veterinarian who administered those treatments. Anxious owners acting fidgety don’t help either!
5. Travel Anxiety/ Riding in the Car
Fear of the Car or a phobia of travel are both a common issue our dogs deal with!
Did something happen to your pup while in the car? Were you in an accident, or does he/she relate the car to undesirable destinations? Do you have a poor suspension, making for an uncomfortable ride?
Always relate praise, rewards and positive things to the car! Many dogs dislike the car because they relate bad experiences from upset owners to it.
6. Fear of Strangers
Dogs are social animals, and socializing them properly, beginning at a young age, is very important! You want to teach your dog that strangers mean good things (or are at the very least friendly) early on.
Unfortunately, many dogs are never introduced to many humans outside of the owner or owner’s family until they become adults. These dogs tend to become suspicious of strangers around their family’s ‘territory’, regarding them not as friends but potential threats.
7. Fear of Other Dogs
One of the most common fears and phobias in dogs involves other dogs!
While dogs are social animals and ideally want to be in the company of other dogs or people, they need to learn that other animals are friendly.
Puppies go through two major ‘fear periods’ growing up, when they learn what can be harmful to them and what means good things. If a puppy isn’t properly introduced (socialized with) to other dogs during these periods, learning that other animals are friendly, they can become suspicious of possible threats.
This is made even worse for dogs that have suffered some type of trauma, such as a bite attack from another dog!
Puppies tend to be especially nervous around stairs! Dogs are often nervous around things they haven’t encountered before, and elevated surfaces they must climb can seem strange.
This is made worse if your dog associates an injury or falls to the stairs or suffers from arthritis and finds climbing them difficult.
9. Unfamiliar/ Strange Objects
Dogs are often frightened of, or feel anxiety toward, objects they haven’t encountered before. This could be a new set of furniture, oddly textured flooring, or even weird new plants!
The key to avoiding this type of anxiety is the same as people or other animals. Introduce your dog to the strange new object, slowly desensitizing him to this new addition to your home.
Associate praise and treats, along with other rewards in order to create pleasurable emotions!
10. Age Related Anxiety
Older dogs tend to deal with increased anxiety in general. As they reach an advanced age, a dog’s cognitive abilities can begin to deteriorate (just like older humans). They can become jumpier, easily startled at things that you might consider common.
How can I help my dog overcome its fear of loud noises?
You can help your dog by providing a safe space during loud events, using sound therapy, and gradually desensitizing them to these noises. In severe cases, you may need to consult with a vet or a professional trainer.
What are the signs of separation anxiety in dogs?
Signs can include excessive barking or howling, destructive behavior, inappropriate elimination, and signs of distress when you’re about to leave.
How can I help my dog overcome fear of new people or animals?
Gradual exposure and positive reinforcement can be beneficial. Start with calm introductions and reward your dog for calm behavior.
Why is my dog scared of car rides?
Some dogs associate car rides with negative experiences like trips to the vet. Other dogs may get motion sickness.
Can I help my dog overcome its fear of the vet?
Yes, by creating positive associations with the vet’s office such as treats and toys, and gradual exposure can help.
Why is my dog afraid of certain objects?
Dogs can develop phobias to specific objects due to negative experiences or lack of early socialization.
How can past trauma affect my dog’s behavior?
Past trauma can lead to various fear-based behaviors in dogs, such as fear of specific situations, people, or places.
Can health issues cause my dog to develop new fears?
Yes, health issues, especially those causing discomfort or pain, can make your dog more fearful or anxious.
How can I help my older dog who has developed new fears?
Consult with your vet to rule out health issues. Gentle training, creating a safe environment, and sometimes anxiety medication can help.
Can I train my dog to overcome its fears?
Yes, with patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. However, for severe phobias, you may need to consult a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist.
Unraveling the mystery of our canine companions’ fears and phobias is crucial for promoting their wellbeing and strengthening our bond with them. Each dog is unique, with its individual triggers that can cause anxiety or fear. By being cognizant of these common causes – loud noises, separation anxiety, new faces, car rides, vet visits, environmental changes, specific objects, past traumas, certain situations, and age-related issues – we can help our pets navigate through their fears more comfortably.
Addressing these fears requires patience, understanding, and at times professional help. Remember, it’s crucial to avoid forcing your dog into fear-provoking situations. Instead, gradual desensitization and positive reinforcement are key to helping your dog overcome their anxieties.
In the end, being aware of these 10 common causes of fears and phobias in dogs is just the first step. The journey to helping your furry friend involves consistent efforts, love, and care – making the journey itself rewarding. Remember, a fear-free dog is a happy and healthy dog.