What are the most common dog fears?
Phobias are common in dogs and can cause serious distress for both pet and owner.
A phobia is an extreme or exaggerated fear response to a situation or event. Signs of a phobic reaction include destructive behaviour, cowering, trembling, salivating, whining or even being aggressive. Sadly, phobias usually get worse over time and will not get better on their own without your help.
The loud, relentless whizzes and bangs, the flashing lights, and having no idea where these noises are coming from can all cause your dog to be anxious. Your dog may cower, howl or hide when they hear fireworks.
While fireworks are going off give them a safe place to go to in the house, mask the sounds with TV or radio and be calm and reassuring.
The volume, unpredictability and even barometric pressure that thunder brings can all be causes of astraphobia in your dog. Pacing, whining, freezing and hiding are all typical symptoms.
You can help by keeping your dog inside, giving them a hiding place, playing music to muffle the sound, distracting them through play and staying calm yourself. Once they relax, reward them in that state with a treat.
Your dog is a pack animal, so when you leave them they won’t understand why and can become stressed. Signs of separation anxiety in your dog can include: barking, howling, whining, destruction, panting and salivating.
To help, you must train them to be comfortable on their own, ideally when they are still a puppy. In dogs that already have separation anxiety, a gradual training approach can help remove the fear.
Dogs can fear strangers for a few reasons, including not enough social time as a puppy or the memory of a traumatic event.
A good technique is to have visitors toss treats to your dog while they ignore them. The lack of eye contact will help calm your dog and the treats help them form a positive association.
It doesn’t have to be a loud vacuum cleaner – dogs can fear anything if they make a bad association with it.
Whilst this can be managed with most objects by removing them from sight, it’s not so easy if it’s a gatepost or car. Very gradual exposure to fearful items over time can help rehabilitate your dog.
Unfamiliar sights and sounds, other animals making noise, a stranger’s handling, injections, bright lights – it’s easy to see why your dog might have an issue with visiting the vets.
You can help them get used to vet examinations by doing practice vet examinations at home – check their ears, teeth and paws while carefully restraining them.
This is one of the most common dog phobias, and one of the most upsetting, as car journeys have the potential to be such a joyful experience with your dog. It can be caused by physical discomfort such as sickness and the sound, motion and vibration of riding in a car.
To help them, gradually introduce your dog to the car and back it up with positive reinforcement like treats and rewards. Start simple. Just having a few treats in the car without turning on the engine is enough for the first step!