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Helping Your Dog HandleFear



scared dogWe tend to assume that dogs are confident, strong animals who know no fear and who are always willing to step between you and danger, assuming the threat isn’t a vacuum cleaner or something. Problem is, this is a pretty steep misconception as dogs of all shapes and sizes can have bouts of fear regarding one thing or another, whether that be thunder or strangers or seemingly nothing. For those wondering if there’s anything we can do to help reduce this, let’s take a look at what causes fear in dogs and then how to go about preventing it entirely.

To understand why dogs very readily panic at such basic noises in our houses, you should understand that while a blender is something we use all the time, dogs would have no way of figuring out its use beyond a method of making a horrible grinding, whirling noise. Technologies that we take for granted as common knowledge are entirely baffling to a dog, and many of them will react with the appropriate flight response.

All dogs adhere to three methods of dealing with fear and use them in order, though sometimes incredibly fast. First, they will freak out and search for a place to hide. Next, assuming the “danger” has not left them alone, they will try to remain perfectly still in order to determine whether the hazard will leave it alone or if they need to move into the third method, which if full-on aggression and fighting back. Dogs don’t have a fight or flight instinct; dogs have a run, stop, then attack instinct.

A bit of this can be traced back to how they were raised as puppies. In the critical development stages of their early lives, it’s very easy for them to have either been under socialized with other pets or completely dominated by more aggressive ones, leading to a more fearful or submissive attitude toward other animals and humans. The same goes with the introduction of loud, confusing noises. If you get your pups acclimated to the sound of perhaps an alarm clock when they’re young, they won’t be as likely to panic at the sound later in life or equally jarring noises.

It doesn’t do any good to wish they were raised any differently in the past though, and much of the time you’ll be adopting from rescue shelters and such (a very good thing to do by the way), so you’ll just need to know what to do in the moment itself. Your attitude will play a major role, if not the biggest, in getting them to settle down. If you instantly turn into a sympathetic, worried parent to your scared dog, they will respond by assuming their reaction was justified. If however they see you completely calm and your attitude toward them is that nothing’s different whatsoever, they will pick up on this and may start to view the once scary noise as just day-to-day business.

If you’re hoping more to inspire your pooch further, you have to become the leader in all situations. Dogs live by the pack mentality, and so if you become the alpha dog of the group (the house) and don’t appear scared by something that’s trivial, they will follow your leadership and remain confident. Your attitude will be the thing keeping them from being scared and being calm. Make sure to keep control of yourself in these situations.

Dogs just can’t help themselves sometimes. They live in a human’s world and so things will naturally frighten them now and again. Show them love and offer reassurance, but remain calm and positive. Doing so will help your dog get through whatever it is that’s bothering them and come out the other side a more confident, better adjusted pup!


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