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Many dogs suffer from fears and phobias. Fear is a normal response to some situations, but extreme fear or Phobias in dogs is a sign of behavior problems.

Dogs express fear in several ways. They may shake, pace, whine, bark, cower, hide, or even exhibit signs of fear reactivity, which is often confused with aggression.

Excessive fear and anxiety, especially toward a specific and inexplicable trigger, is called a phobia.

Phobias are the result of a previous experience. Sometimes they are the result of repeated experiences, but for dogs, it just takes one experience to solidify a fearful response into a phobia. For example, an intense consistent fear of thunderstorms. Animals don’t understand what thunder is, and we can’t explain it to them.

Dogs can develop phobias in response to unlikely triggers like people with glasses, children, or even toasters. Excessive fear and phobias in relation to different people and strange situation are commonly the result of poor socialization at a young age.

it’s far better and less stressful for you both if you help build your dog’s confidence and ability to cope in new situations – or else be able to recognise situations that may make your dog feel worried or scared and take steps to avoid them.

Signs of Fear and Phobias in Dogs

It is likely that your dog is experiencing a fearful reaction if he or she displays one or more of the following telltale signs of fear in dogs:

  • Shaking or pacing
  • Growling, barking, whining, howling or excessive panting
  • Wide, open eyes and dilated pupils
  • Tail tucked between legs
  • Head turned away from the cause of fear
  • Ears facing sideways/backwards
  • Attempting to “escape” a room or cage to the point of self-injury
  • Crouching, slinking, or moving backwards

Causes of Fear and Phobias in Dogs

Many factors can be related to fear and phobias in dogs. These are some of the most common.

Poor socialization in early life

There may have been limited or minimal exposure to people and/or other animals when the dog was young. The socialization period is a sensitive period of development which occurs from 3 to 12 weeks of age, whereby dogs learn to communicate with animals and people and to adapt to a variety of environments.

Predisposition due to breed or temperament

Genetics also plays a role in fearful behavior. Just as a dog can inherit coat color and size from his parents, so can he inherit personality traits. a dog whose fear stems from a genetic predisposition may appear fearful of many things rather than having just one specific phobia.

A stressful or traumatic event

Negative experiences are another reason dogs develop fears and phobias. If a dog pairs a person, place, or object with a traumatic experience, it’s possible that the dog will develop a fear or phobia to that thing.

A medical condition or illness

Fear and phobic behavior may be related to pain or other medical problems which reduce the dog’s fuse of tolerance.

Age related degeneration in the brain

In senior dogs, altered mental activity might be associated with neurological dysfunction, declining senses, endocrine imbalances or cognitive dysfunction.

Treatment of Fear and Phobias in Dogs

Dogs that experience extreme fear and/or phobic behaviors need professional intervention. The first place to start is with scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can rule in or rule out medical conditions that may cause or exacerbate your dog’s behavioral response.

Your veterinarian may diagnose the behavioral condition, prescribe medication, and design a treatment plan for the dog’s specific condition. They may need the help of drug therapies, like antianxiety medications or room sprays that mimic calming therapies.

Your veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist or a certified applied animal behaviorist.


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