Things That Scare Dogs (and How to Tell When They're Afraid)
What Is Your Dog Scared Of?
I love dogs. They make great companions, and each dog has his own unique personality and idiosyncrasies (just like us!). Based on my own experience, as well as a little research with family, friends, and the internet, I have compiled a list of things that might scare your dog.
Fireworks: Fear of fireworks is a common phobia for dogs. They often find the loud, unpredictable noise and bright displays of light truly frightening. Even a seemingly confident dog can tremble and drool at the unfamiliar sounds.
Thunderstorms: Dogs may develop astraphobia, or a fear of thunder and lightning. This can range from mild to severe from dog to dog. Dogs may also be able to sense a thunderstorm coming well before you are able to detect it. This is the reason so many dog owners report seeing their dogs exhibit signs of fear several minutes or longer before the storm actually hits.
Fear of the vet: Also quite common in dogs. I have seen Layla, my Rott, cower in fear at the vet's office before we even went in! Going to the vet is a traumatic experience for dogs; there are strange smells and sounds, and maybe there's a memory of getting shots. Sometimes all this takes place when your dog is already not feeling well. Quite understandable in my book.
Beards, jackets, and hats: Many of us have heard and subscribe to the belief that dogs are a great judge of character. If your dog shows fear or aggression when he is introduced to someone, we may automatically have second thoughts about that person because something undefined has spooked the dog. It could be as simple as the person has a beard, or is wearing a hat, and the dog finds this scary because the dog wasn't adequately socialized (not exposed to varied people, places, and things) during puppyhood. I wouldn't rule out the "great judge of character" thing totally, though.
Other dogs: Dogs are pack animals. That means they form stable social units and protect their territory from other dogs. A dog that is afraid of other dogs may have developed the problem as the effects of bad puppyhood experiences with other (bigger) dogs. If your puppy gets frightened by another dog, even without injury, you have the start of a problem. With a few more incidents like that, you get a permanent fear built for the future unless you take immediate corrective action.
Spiritual energy: Ok, this one isn't something everyone's going to subscribe to, but I wanted to mention it because some of us do. When I say spiritual energy, I mean ghosts, spectres, the undead, whatever you call them. There have been documented cases of dogs sensing an unwelcome presence in their owners' homes and by their actions, alerting the owners. Can dogs actually "see" what we humans can't? Do they really have a sixth sense?
Dogs show psychic abilities in several ways. One of these is knowing when a loved one is in danger or dying. They have also shown signs of mourning. I have seen my three dogs looking up at the ceiling, whining and barking. They were scared witless which in turn scared me because I didn't see anything up there. Was it a ghostly presence? I don't know for sure but I trust my dogs' senses. Energy can't be destroyed, it just changes form. Psychic energy and spiritual energy are all part this phenomenon, and so animals might have as much of a connection to the unseen world as we do.
How to Tell When Your Dog Is Afraid
Dogs communicate using their bodies. Keep the following signs of fear in mind so you can easily catch on to even the slightest hint that your dog is anxious and stressed about something in his environment.
- Flattened ears
- Tail tucked between the hind legs
- Lip licking
- Raised hair on the back of the neck
- Submissive urination
- Clinginess to owner
- Dilated pupils or seeing the whites of a dog's eyes
- Loss of control over bowels or bladder
If you notice your dog exhibiting one or more of these signals try to identify the source of your dog's fear. Most important—keep calm! Your body language can tell a dog that there is a reason to be afraid. Your dog will sense anxiety and nervouness and respond accordingly. You can desensitize your dog from mild fears and phobias fairly easily on your own, but I would recommend a vet or a dog behaviour specialist for severe cases to protect you and your dog. A frightened dog can easily become aggressive.
What scares your dog? Let me know in the comments below!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.