Phobias In Dogs: How Can We Avoid Them?

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Fears or phobias are common in dogs; however, in the long run, they can end up in stressful situations or major traumas that affect your pet’s life and the way they relate to the world everyday.

Fears are common to all living beings. In dogs we can identify two types of phobias: social phobia and inanimate phobias.

Social phobias are those that affect the interaction with other living beings, whether they are people or animals. Social phobias are the result of improper socialization during the early stages of a puppy’s life.

Inanimate phobias refer to the fears towards different objects such as cars, water, etc. They arise as a result of a trauma derived from certain noises or bodily sensations.

How To Know What My Dog Is Afraid Of?

Your dog’s reactions to situations that frighten it will be evident. It will be frightened or threatened, it will try to escape, it will bark, tremble, and it may even urinate or become aggressive. Its body language will be clear: it may pull its ears back, hide its tail between its legs or its pupils may dilate.

In these situations, we should not pet our dog as this may confuse it into thinking that it is a positive situation. We should not scold it either. The right thing to do is to be indifferent to the situation. The first step to take is to move our pet away from the situation or object that is causing stress to it and show it that in fact said situation or object does not represent any threat and will not harm it. You will have to be patient, as it is sometimes a long process. Often phobias result from overprotection by the dog’s owners. The best thing to do is to breed your pet so that it can socialize healthily with its environment.

Which Are The Most Common Phobias In Dogs?

Below we will detail the phobias or fears that dogs commonly have:

  • Stairs and Elevators: When they are puppies, stairs are a great challenge to overcome. The obvious fear is to fall. In order to overcome this fear, the best thing to do is to motivate them with food to go up and down the steps until they understand and learn to manage their own body movement safely. Elevator fear is related to movement and confinement. During the first elevator rides, you should carry your dog in your arms. It is important for your dog to know that you will always be by its side.
  • Crowded Places: When you take your dog to a noisy place and it is surrounded by people, it may become overwhelmed or panic-stricken. This phobia is directly related to a socialization problem that developed from puppyhood. That is why it is always recommended to get them used to seeing other people, to walks and outings to parks from the first months of age.
  • Children and Puppies: Children can be stressful for your dog. Some children tend to treat dogs as if they were stuffed animals, invading their personal space. The best remedy is to introduce your pet gradually to children, with care and supervision. The same applies to puppies. These tend to be extremely energetic, which can stress your furry friend.
  • Cars: This fear is a reaction to noise, speed and movement. While most dogs love going for car rides, sticking their heads out the window and letting their tongues wag in the wind, others may be fearful of getting into cars and even seeing or hearing them on the street because of a trauma caused by a previous car crash.
  • Other animals: Usually this fear is a defense reaction of dogs, especially against larger animals such as a horse. Your pet may feel vulnerable. Keep calm and carefully bring your dog close to the other animal to show that it does not pose a threat.
  • Vacuum Cleaners or Hairdryers: This fear is related to the noise they make. Our pets think that these objects will attack them. If you manage to show your pet that the object will not attack it, you will have no more problems.
  • Bright, Unfamiliar or Moving Objects: In general, all phobias arise from fear of the unknown. For example, something that shines may seem surprising to your dog, an unfamiliar object that it has never seen before, or other objects that move as if they have come to life may frighten it. These fears are easy to overcome. Once your dog becomes accustomed to the presence of such objects, there will be nothing to worry about. The important thing as an owner is not to encourage fear, even if your dog’s reaction to the unknown is “funny” or “amusing”.
  • Water: Although dogs instinctively possess the swimming reflex, on their first contact with water many are overwhelmed by the experience. For their first baths or walks on the beach, the best thing to do is to get into the water with your pet. This will prevent many problems in the future when bath time comes and your dog wants to escape. Try to make the experiences enjoyable and fun for it.
  • Fireworks and Thunder: This is one of the most common fears of our four-legged friends. Our dogs’ hearing is very sensitive and being stunned by loud noises causes panic and stress. The dog will try to escape, but it will want to feel accompanied too. Try to create an environment where it does not feel confined and where loud sounds are minimized. Stay with your pet at these times to provide affection and security.
  • Loneliness: When you leave home without your pet, it is quite difficult to explain to it that you will be back soon and that you are not really abandoning it. To prevent separation anxiety you should teach your dog from puppyhood to be independent and to entertain alone. A great idea would be leaving a piece of clothing with your scent on it within its reach on your first few outings. Little by little your four-legged friend will understand that you will always come home and that it will be a happy homecoming every time.
  • Vet: Unfortunately, this phobia is the most common one. First veterinary visits can be traumatic for puppies because they are in a stranger’s hands who gives them pills and shots. Try not to change your dog’s veterinarian so that your dog feels familiar with the person who will be assisting it. You can also reward your pet with treats after each visit to the vet to reinforce positive behavior.

If in doubt, consult a professional who will give you good assistance and answer all your questions.