Fear is a strong tension caused by external stimuli or by being in a dangerous situation. It is a reaction of the organism characteristic of human and not less common among other animals. The main reflex caused by fear is fight or flight. The body unconsciously decides on the most appropriate reaction in that particular moment.
Undoubtedly, dogs are afraid of external impulses no less than people. Some of these external stimuli may seem irrational to human, thus, go unnoticed to us. Our ignorance of the stimuli can contribute to the rise of fear and anxiety of our pets. Knowing our dogs’ weaknesses as well as situations and things that cause them fear may help us prevent stressful situations for our dogs in the future.
Dogs are afraid of loud and sudden noises. But those are not the only forces which may cause dogs to feel terrified. Knowing the sources of these fears can help us respond properly when our pets have an anxiety attack.
The vast majority of dogs are afraid of loud noises. Dog anxiety is a common reaction to the explosion of fireworks or sounds of thunder. Dogs can also be scared of the noise from machines and tools used during renovation. Another common source of loud and unpleasant noise for dogs is also vacuum cleaner.
A dog can be scared of objects that are completely harmless in our eyes. Furthermore, an object’s shape is more important than its size when it comes to triggering a dog’s fear. For example, a small but oddly shaped vase can cause the same amount of fear that a huge sculpture of an elephant does.
A dog may also be terrified of figures seen in the distance, even if it is someone he knows. There are times when a pet does not recognize a loved one, leading it to perceive that as a threat.
Going back to the same place with bad experiences from the past scares a dog. It is because dogs can remember unpleasant experiences associated with fear and feel anxious or tense in the future if they are in similar situations.
A dog’s reaction to anxiety and fear is not always easy to read. Especially if the dog is scared of something that, for us, seems to be totally normal. Familiarizing with your pet’s fears is another step in deepening your bond. Understanding the response to fear will possibly help protect the dog from unnecessary stress.
There are several symptoms of dog’s fear and anxiety. Some of them are quite obvious, while others are less easy to read:
Owner’s correct reaction to the above symptoms is very important. First of all, we can not punish the dog because something scared him. Even if the reason for the pet’s anxiety is irrational to us, it is up to us, as the guardians, to accept and understand the behaviour of the dog. If we respond with dissatisfaction or aggression towards a dog’s fear and anxiety we will only compound his fears in the future.
If possible, prove to the dog that what makes him scared is in fact completely harmless. For example, he can be scared by the reflection in the mirror or a huge pile of laundry. In our eyes, these things are completely harmless, so at the beginning, it may be difficult to find out what causes a dog’s fear.
However, we should remember not to react too emotionally to our pet’s fear. Stroking or hugging can be perceived by him as a praise or reward for his reaction. Although we want to show to our dog that we support him and he is not in danger, unfortunately, we are acting to his detriment. Such reaction, unfortunately, strengthens the dog’s anxiety.
How to support dog’s spirit?
If we notice that our four-legged friend shivers or cowers with fear, we can help him in one of the following ways. Not all solutions will bring relief to your dog, so watch his reaction and try a different method if necessary.
The calm voice of the owner is a signal to the pooch that the threat has passed. When the dog realises that his guardian is not scared, he will feel safer.
If your dog gets scared of noisy streets, loud children in a playground or barking dogs on a passing ground, take him to a more secluded, quiet place. Let him calm down and recover.
If the dog calms down a little, you can start petting him. It is important not to do it too abruptly. Slowly move closer to the pooch and speak to him with a soothing voice, then start petting him. Under no circumstances you should make quick and abrupt movements or try to hug your pet hastily. A very scared dog can behave in an unexpected way.
Perhaps the pooch was frightened by the sound of a storm, the renovation of a neighbour or the racket outside the window. In these situations, try to separate the dog from the source of noise as much as possible. During the storm, try to turn on relaxing music that, at least at some level, will camouflage the sounds of thunder. If loud sounds are directly related to your place, take your pooch for a long walk to a nearby park.
When the dog is extremely restless and despite the passage of time still seems to be shaky and very nervous, give him medicine with a calming effect. However, this is the last resort and if it is possible, should be avoided. Calming drugs should be recommended by a vet who is familiar with the dog’s health condition and his current medical history.
In the case of extremely severe and non-diminishing symptoms of terror and fear, take your dog to the vet for a check-up. Perhaps the source of anxiety is more serious than we originally thought and the dog needs the help of a specialist.
In the moment of fear, our pooch looks for support from others, usually from its owner, because it is the person he trusts the most. If he does not get the help he needs from his guardian, he may tend to keep a distance with the owner in the future.
So how should we behave when we see a sense of threat in the eyes of a pet? First of all, we should show the pet that he has our support. Let us reassure him that the threat has passed and there is nothing to fear. Such behaviour will be the best act of friendship that we can show him in these difficult times.