Considered man’s best friends, dogs are symbols of companionship and loyalty. In addition to that, they are often chosen as guards, guarding the house and protecting guardians. It is not surprising that many times you may discover that your dog backs away when you reach for him.
Well, know that this can happen to many pets, even those of large and strong races, the kind that put fear in a lot of people! More than a personality characteristic, fear in dogs is a behavioral disorder that contributes to problems such as socialization difficulties, aggressiveness, among others.
To prevent this from happening, let’s find out the causes of fear and what to do to help a scared dog?
Why are some dogs scared?
Just as humans are not all the same, dogs also have different temperaments, which in turn can result in more or less fearful behavior. And that goes even to individuals of the same race!
However, the most influential factors with regard to courage have to do mainly with the history and creation of the pet. Some of the causes of fear in dogs that are indicated by specialists include:
• Trauma: especially during childhood, dogs go through remarkable experiences that will be essential in adulthood. If the pet has any trauma or fright during this period, it will have an influence throughout its life.
• Lack of socialization in childhood: while the pet is still a puppy, it is important to introduce it to different types of people, dogs, environments, and situations. If the pet grows up in a very limited environment, it will find new experiences strange and react with fear whenever it finds something unusual.
• Inconsistent training: contrary to what many people think, stipulating rules for the dog and being consistent with them does not cause suffering to the pet. On the contrary! By clearly understanding what he can and cannot do, the dog becomes much more confident, hence, becoming less fearful and anxious.
As mentioned earlier, factors such as race and genetic heritage can also play a role. After all, a dog raised for guard duty like the Lhasa Apso tends to be braver than a companion dog like the Shih-Tzu.
However, it is mainly the breeding that will determine the dog’s behavior. The good news is that, in many cases, fear can be overcome through training!
How to know if your pet is scared
Dogs are territorial and can act in an untimely manner if they feel that their space has been invaded. Thus, it is normal for your dog to back away when visitors arrive.
Furthermore, because they do not know the origin of certain events, it is understandable that they are afraid of loud sounds such as fireworks. On the other hand, if fear is interfering with the pet’s coexistence, generating aggression, or causing physical harm, maybe your dog needs some help.
Therefore, some warning signs that your dog needs some help are:
• The dog hides whenever he goes through a different situation.
• Bark incessantly for visitors.
• Snarls at strangers or tutors.
• He backs up or walks against the wall.
• It gets very agitated and has tremors.
• It threatens to attack.
If your pet has one or more of the above symptoms, it may be time to see a professional and seek treatment. In addition to disrupting the pet’s socialization, exaggerated fear causes a high level of stress and can harm his health.
How to help a scared dog
Did you notice that you live with a scared dog? Do not worry. There are ways to alleviate the problem and make your pet more peaceful and healthy. The most used method is keeping contact with the element that makes him/her afraid. But beware! This must be done very carefully.
Gradually, and in a controlled way, expose the dog to the situation that frightens him. It is important that this is done gradually, respecting the pet’s reaction. If the process is not done correctly, the fear can get even bigger and worse: the dread can spread to other things and people. The dog can, for example, also start to fear whoever submitted him to the stressful situation.
An essential tip on how to calm a fearful dog is to associate the fearful situation with a treat: a treat, a pet, or a joke. In this way, little by little, the pet’s memory will get used to that situation, and he will feel more comfortable and confident.
Stay close but don’t force the interaction. Not all dogs want lap or physical contact during stressful situations. Therefore, watch your dog’s behavior and avoid pulling or grabbing him against his will. Let him demonstrate what you can do to help him.
If the dog is still a puppy, it will probably be afraid of many things. But, if you adopt certain practices with the pet from an early age, it can grow braver. For example, fires, thunder, and other loud noises are always a problem for most dogs and guardians. So try to get your friend used to these noises.
Dogs learn a lot from observation, so if they realize that everyone in the household is dealing with storms normally, they’ll realize there’s nothing to fear. Another practice that helps is to distract the dog during the event with snacks or games so that he will not notice the noise and won’t have terrifying memories in the future.
Four Tips on How to Train Your Dog Effectively
The first rule of thumb for conditioning your dog to obey any command is to act on what you’re saying. If you teach your dog to stay, for example, by giving this order, walking away, and then telling him to come to you will make him learn to disobey your request.
Ask him to stay in position and gradually increase the length of the stay until he is released. Remember to reward him with treats, toys, or affection, which should be given when the dog is released from command while obeying you. In addition, there are educational toys that will help you to train your dogs.
With that first rule in mind, let’s get to training!
Introducing the Dog to the Reward
Wear the collar on your pet and kneel, holding it by the collar with one hand while the other holds a portion of food or treat. Tell the do to stay and wait patiently until he stops moving towards the treat. Keep repeating the “stay” command until the dog understands that it shouldn’t move.
As soon as he holds the position without pulling his collar, say incentives like “very good” and give him one of the treats. Be patient and caring, especially at the beginning of the training.
Stand up and repeat the command.
Stand up and hold your dog’s lead close to you. Say “stay” and toss one of the treats a few steps away from you, hoping the dog will calm down. Reach the reward and bring it closer, letting it reach the treat after it has been calm and stopped for a while, saying “ok” before releasing it.
Repeat step 2
This time, toss the reward a little farther, so you have to walk to it to get it. Your dog must be used to following you. So don’t scold him if he does. Just walk, always looking at him, repeating “stay,” and stopping whenever he moves.
Affection and patience are the secrets of how to train a dog. So always demonstrate that he is doing a good job and that this is a fun time for both of you.
Exchange the reward
Try replacing snacks with toys and then with affection and words of encouragement. Repeat the first three steps with these new rewards, including using more than one of them at a time. Once the dog is obeying the command well, you can introduce him to “sit,” “lay down,” “give the paw,” and so on.
It is important to clarify that each dog has its learning time, so be patient and do not give up on training the dog if you think it is taking a long time to learn.
Also, the puppy tends to learn better than an adult dog, but that doesn’t mean that training adult dogs is impossible, right? Any dog can be trained!
If in doubt, get help
When you notice that your pet is showing signs of fear, the help of a professional is always welcome. By identifying what triggers insecurity in the pet, he will know how-to guide in relation to best practices. And remember: as smart as dogs are and seem to understand people very well, they don’t always fully understand the situation. So if you get mad at the dog during a fear attack, you will only make him more terrified. Instead, try to help your pet through affection and acceptance. With effort and a little patience, your friend will soon become safer to enjoy quiet moments by your side.