Nobody wants their loved ones to be scared, so helping your dog cope with fears and phobias is a good move for both of you.
Nature or nurture?
Some dogs are fearful by nature – and some are more predisposed to it than others. But fear is also something many dogs learn. Typical fears and even phobias are those related to vet surgeries, physical punishment, confinement, storms and loud noises.
If pressed far enough, fearful or anxious dogs may attempt to escape, urinate involuntarily or even bite if cornered. And although the factors contributing to individual cases vary, there are some common threads that can help alleviate and cure the problem.
Treating a scared dog
If the cause of the fear or anxiety is known, it helps to slowly reintroduce the dog to the root cause and reward calm behaviour. This is known as ‘desensitisation’. Punishment, scolding or harsh training methods – poor techniques in any situation – should always be avoided when it comes to fearful dogs. They will only make the problem worse.
In cases of aggression linked to fear, a behaviourist will be able to give you advice about safety issues and treatment. With patience and some consistent effort on your part, fearful dogs can and will regain their self-confidence.
In extreme cases, as with severe separation anxiety some fearful dogs benefit from temporary anti-anxiety treatment (prescribed by a vet in conjunction with a behaviour program), but it’s far better to find the cause of the anxiety and start a training program that will help the dog learn to overcome it without medication.
About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre
The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.