Dogs can suffer from a number of different fears and phobias. These phobias can have a variety of causes, including lack of early socialization, genetics, or a negative experience. A dog's fears and phobias may lead to signs such as cowering, trembling, drooling, barking, destructive behavior, and, in some cases, aggression.
The following are some common dog fears and phobias:
Astraphobia is a fear of thunder, and it is a very common phobia in dogs. The degree of this fear can differ between dogs. Some may just have a mild fear of thunder. In this case, a dog may tremble slightly or you may notice flattened ears and a tucked tail during a thunderstorm. Other dogs may have a more severe phobia which leads them to hide, become destructive, or lose control of their bowels or bladder.
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.
A fear of fireworks is another common dog phobia. Similar to a fear of thunderstorms, the loud and unpredictable sounds and light displays of fireworks make many dogs tremble in fear. For some dogs, slowly getting them used to the sound of fireworks can eliminate the phobia. In other cases, you may need to use management techniques. Dogs with a severe fireworks phobia may need to be treated with an anti-anxiety medication or sedatives.
The fear of being left home alone is referred to as separation anxiety. Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety tend to exhibit destructive behavior as soon as their owners leave the house. Other symptoms include excessive barking and housebreaking accidents when left alone.
A change in the dog owner's behavior may help ease a dog's fears. Simply by making changes to their habits before leaving the house and staying low key when they leave and return home, dog owners can alleviate some of a dog's anxiety. Desensitization, the process of slowly getting the dog used to being left home alone, can also be beneficial to dogs suffering from separation anxiety.
It's not unusual for dogs to be afraid of going to the veterinarian. A dog's first exposure to going to the vet usually involves strange smells, being handled in new ways, being restrained, and getting vaccinations. It's no wonder dogs can easily become fearful of a trip to the vet. If there are no other phobias involved, this fear can often be easily fixed simply by bringing a dog to the vet for a few social visits that don't involve an examination.
Many dogs are afraid of riding in the car. The fear is usually due to a lack of early exposure to car rides or negative experiences with riding in the car, such as getting car sick, riding in the car to be left at a shelter, or only going for a car ride for a visit to the veterinarian. It's possible to overcome your dog's fear of riding in the car by using treats and praise to slowly lure your dog into the car, and then working up to taking rides in small steps.
A dog owner may not realize his dog has a fear of going up and down stairs until his dog puts on the breaks as they approach a set of steps. This phobia is almost always due to a lack of early socialization. A dog who isn't exposed to steps as a young puppy may develop of fear of going up and down them when he encounters a stairway later in life. Some dogs can be cajoled out of their fear by making going up and down steps into a game. Other dogs may need to learn to navigate stairs, literally, step by step.
7. Fear of Men
It may surprise people to learn that it is fairly common for dogs to be afraid of men. While in some cases this fear may stem from being abused by a man, most of the time it is due to lack of socialization. Dogs who are fearful of men should be slowly desensitized to men in a nonthreatening manner. Keep in mind that a fearful dog may growl, snap, or bite someone as a result of this fear.
A fear of strangers is similar to a fear of men, but in this case, a dog may be afraid of anyone he doesn't know. This can be a difficult problem to overcome because it's impossible to teach your dog to accept every possible new person. It's important to allow your dog to approach new people in his own time. Forcing a fearful dog to accept a stranger could push a dog to become aggressive.
Dogs develop a fear of children for several reasons. One is a lack of early exposure to children. It's not uncommon for people to get a pet before becoming parents. Unless you bring a puppy into a household with children, your dog may not get the opportunity to socialize with them. Dogs also often have negative experiences with children. While a child's intentions may be good, a dog may interpret overtures of affection as a threat. Dog owners who are dealing with a dog with a fear of children should consult a dog trainer or behaviorist to work on this phobia.
10. Fear of Objects
Many dogs develop a fear of particular objects - the vacuum cleaner, holiday decorations, a child's toy. Very often this type of fear is not a big deal, as many objects can simply be moved out of sight. In certain cases, however, it can be problematic. For instance if your dog refuses to walk past a statue outside your apartment building or if he turns into a trembling, anxiety-stricken mess every time you need to vacuum the carpet. In this case, you may need to slowly introduce your dog to objects he is afraid of in a positive, happy manner.