How You Can Help A Fearful Dog
A dog owner lately asked this question: “My dog is fearful of bizarre noises like thunder or fireworks, how am I able to help him?” The answer is that there are a bunch of ways that you can help a fearful dog but it is also worth knowing what to steer clear of when your dog is afraid as our intention to help could worsen it!
Where Does the Fear Come From?
The base of your dog’s fear could relate back to a bad experience or a lack of socialization and exposure to noise when they were young. However often dog fears aren’t down to anything we know about, but do not worry if you can’t find a cause because understanding where the fearfulness comes from is not as important as what you do about it.
Dogs can be fearful of most anything that they do not understand – and the reality is that our dogs live mainly in a world that they don’t understand. It’s a world stuffed with alien, loud gizmos that beep and whirr, start up, make a lot of noise and then stop without rhyme or reason. Dog owners report that their dogs are afraid of everything from doorbells to machine washers, vacuum cleaners to fireworks including many other noises we’d consider utterly innocuous.
The simplest way to Affect Your Dog
The way that you react when your dog is fearful could affect the level of the fear. The best thing you can do for your dog is to remain calm yourself. Your dog is highly aware of our feelings and will know if you’re concerned as well , which will confirm to them that they were right to be fearful first of all. This may actually escalate the fearfulness in your dog and confirm their response, making it rather more likely that they will react in the same way next time.
The calmer you are , the more probable that your dog’s levels of fear will come down as frequently they’re going to look to work out how you are reacting when faced with a frightening situation.
What Not to Do
Don’t make a dog face their fears as it won’t help and it could backfire on you. Dogs live by their instincts and when they’re fearful it’s actually because they see the noise as potentially dangerous or as a threat to their safety. A dog has 3 automatic reactions to danger which are flight, freeze and fight and they will use them in that order.
So the first reaction is probably going to be to get away – that’s why a dog will run and hide from the sound of Thunder. The second reaction is to remain very still to work out if the danger will pass by without them taking any further action and the 3rd is to use aggression. If you’re making your dog face their fears they could turn their aggression on you and you risk getting bitten.
A highly fearful dog will panic when brought face to face with something they fear and we all know how hard it is to reason with someone that is panicking!
It isn’t a great idea to try and comfort your dog either because you are again making something of the event or could again be confirming in the dogs mind that there actually is something to be afraid of. Ironically you could also finish up bolstering the behaviour, if your dog interprets the attention as a reward for their fearful behavior.
What Else Can I Do to Help My Dog?
Learn to be the pack leader. Many dogs assume they are the pack leader, but struggle because this position makes them responsible for keeping you safe and that’s tough when they live in a world full of things they don’t understand.
When you take on the role of pack leader, your dog should relax and be assured that they can trust you to make choices. This means a fearful dog will look to you to judge if something is a threat when faced with something that they do not understand or are scared of and if you’re not terrified your dog will be reassured that they do not have to worry either.
The Writer Venice Marriott learned about dog stress the difficult way with her own rescue dog and has studied the best way to reduce it for the last 2 years. You will get loads more useful information from her blog, plus free video coaching from a world renowned dog training expert, that could help you if you have got a fearful dog.