Few sights are as heartbreaking to a dog owner as seeing a scared dog. Especially when your dog is afraid of you, as that can make any owner feel completely helpless and without a clue of what to do.
If you’re thinking to yourself “my dog is scared of me” and are desperate for answers, you’ve come to the right place – in this article, we’ll go over some of the most important aspects of fearful dog training and help you learn how to approach the situation.
Ready to get started? Then read on below.
How to Know if Your Dog is Scared
For less experienced dog owners, recognizing a timid dog may be a challenge, but luckily, there are clear signs that you can look for that will help you identify the problem. One thing that’s important to understand when talking about scared dogs is that they mainly communicate through body language, so if you’re going to identify fear, you will need to be able to recognize non-verbal cues.
In fact, sometimes when people say “my dog is scared of me,” they are misinterpreting some of the signs and drawing the wrong conclusions. Some of the most telling cues to look for are the easy-to-spot ones like flattened ears, tail tucked between hind legs or avoidance of eye contact.
But there are also more subtle signs that you might not be aware of, such as excessive yawning, lip licking, raised hair on the back of the neck, or even persistent scratching. There are also various behaviors that can point to a dog being scared, such as whining, pacing, clinginess, submissive urination, or even biting. The dog may also be drooling, trembling, or even panting as a result of being scared.1 To confirm your suspicion that your dog is experiencing fear, you should know all of these symptoms and look for multiple signs that something is wrong.
Common Dog Phobias
When people say “my dog is scared of me,” they are likely seeing some of the behaviors or signs listed above and automatically assume that the dog is afraid of them. However, that may not always be the case, as there are many reasons why a dog may be fearful. Just like humans, dogs can develop various phobias throughout their lives.
One of the most common dog phobias is loud noises – whether it’s fireworks, a thunderstorm, or even the vacuum cleaner, you may find that your dog scatters at the first loud noise that he or she hears.
Many dogs also experience separation anxiety and are afraid of being separated from their owners. If you find your dog exhibiting fear symptoms as you’re about to leave, that’s a good clue that the dog isn’t afraid of you, but of being away from you.
Another common phobia for dogs is car rides. Although many dogs absolutely love them, some develop negative associations, especially after they’ve been taken to an unpleasant destination such as the vet’s office.
Finally, some dogs may even be afraid of children, simply because children sometimes don’t know how to interact with a dog appropriately and may have hurt them in the past.2
What to Do If Your Dog is Fearful
When thinking of ways to help a fearful dog gain confidence, the first reaction of many people is to try and coddle and comfort the dog. Unfortunately, sometimes it is the counter-intuitive approach that is most effective with dogs. This can also reduce the chances of it being detrimental to the dog’s fear.
For instance, when training a scared dog not to be afraid, you need to make sure that you’re not encouraging the fear by petting, cuddling, or even putting them on your lap. The dog will inevitably treat this type of behavior as a reward for his fear and will conclude that fear is the appropriate reaction to the situation based on your actions.
Another way to help a timid rescue dog is to swaddle them. There are plenty of swaddle shirts for dogs that provide a gentle, but firm pressure, which can have a soothing effect.
Finally, try to slowly desensitize the dog to the fear by exposing them to it in a controlled setting. This is a more advanced technique and we encourage you to speak to or enlist the help of a reputable dog trainer. If done incorrectly, it could lead to an increased fear response. In fact, it’s best to consult with a professional dog trainer or with a vet in most cases to figure out the most effective and safe course of action.3
When dealing with fearful dogs, finding a solution can be difficult, especially if the dog is afraid of you. However, if you have an understanding of why the dog is afraid, know how to recognize it, and know what to avoid, you can help your canine friend overcome his fear over time. At Pets Best, we offer comprehensive dog insurance plans that include access to a Pet Helpline to ensure that if your dog ever needs assistance overcoming fear, he or she can receive the best care possible. Call 1-877-738-7237 or get a quote today!
1 What Are the Signs of Fear in Dogs? [blog post], Retrieved on August 21st, 2019, from https://www.thesprucepets.com
2 5 Common Dog Phobias and How to Work with Them [blog post], Retrieved on August 21st, 2019, from https://iheartdogs.com
3 How to Help Your Scared Dog Overcome His Fears [blog post], Retrieved on August 21st, 2019 from https://www.care.com
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