How to help a scared or fearful dog
If you have a scared dog, it’s important to understand what is causing that fear.
As their owner you will become used to their behaviour and any changes that occur in certain situations. Dogs are naturally curious and are usually happy and excited about everything around them. However, each dog is different, and some can be scared in certain situations. Depending on their breed and past experiences, every dog can have their own personality and it’s important to understand why your dog is scared or worried.
Dogs usually feel safest when they are in a familiar environment with their owner and can be cautious of new situations that may pose a threat. Common situations that could cause your dog to be scared include:
Separation anxiety– your dog may be worried or scared about being left alone for too long. They may be scared of something in the house or past experiences may cause them to worry.
Loud noises - many pet become scared around fireworks season due to loud bangs which they may not be used to. Any loud noises not familiar to them may cause your dog to become scared.
Other dogs or pets – your dog may be fearful of other dogs while on walks.
New environments – a change in their routine or environment can be a reason why a dog becomes scared or anxious. Moving to a new house, kennel stays, traveling in the car can all cause stress for your pet.
Signs of a scared dog can include:
- Shaking or trembling
- Inability to settle
- Licking lips
- Growling/ aggression
- Lowered body language
It’s important to understand the reason why your dog is scared before trying to fix the problem. Be sure to consult your vet, as there may be a health reason for your dog’s behaviour, and they will be able to offer the best advice.
It may take some patience and training to help your dog overcome his fears, however, there are some positive things you can do to help. These include:
Help your dog to feel safe
This may depend on individual situations and the reasons behind your dog being scared. For example, walking your dog at different times or in different places to avoid other dogs, or sticking to routines to prevent new situations arising.
Create a safe zone for your pet
Create a safe space for your pet in the home for them to go to if they don’t like strangers in the house or are scared of other pets or children.
Reward based training
This can help to reduce stress and fear in certain situations. Dependant on their level of fear, training could help, such as separation anxiety or travelling in the car. However, some dogs fear may be more extreme than other and may require professional help.
It’s important to be patient and take on any advice given by your vet or professional behavioural specialists. They will be able to offer suitable training techniques specific to your dog and offer advice on how to manage situations and behaviour.
Don’t force your dog to face their fears
Don’t force your dog into any situation that makes them fearful or scared, this could cause aggression or become more afraid. Working out a plan to help them not be afraid, which could include training or professional help.
Don’t punish your pet
Your aim is to make your dog feel safe. Don’t punish them for behaviour that could be caused by a reaction to fear or stress. This could lead to further stress and behavioural problems.
Speak to your vet
Your vet will be able to check that everything is ok with your pet medically. If you dog’s behaviour change is sudden, it could be a sign that something is not quite right, or that they are in pain.
Natural calming supplement
Behavioural training could be used alongside nutracalm, which is a natural fast acting support for stress and anxiety in dogs and cats. Recommended by thousands of vets throughout the UK and Ireland, nutracalm provides a unique high strength formula for supporting behavioural management.