Taxonomy term

Dog Behavior - Fearful Dogs

Separation Anxiety

Dog laying on hardwood floor

One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Their dogs might urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape. Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog’s problems are accompanied by other distress behaviors, such as drooling and showing anxiety when his pet parents prepare to leave the house, they aren’t evidence that the dog isn’t house trained or doesn’t know which toys are his to chew.

Neophobia (Fear of New Things)

Puppy looking straight ahead

Neophobia is fear or avoidance of new things. Neophobic dogs show fearful behavior in new environments or around unfamiliar objects or animals they’ve never seen. Fear includes behaviors such as trembling, panting, whining and avoidance or attempts at escape when around new things.

Fear of Specific Places

Close up of sweet Italian Greyhound with large brown eyes and a red collar

Sometimes dogs fear specific places. A dog might develop fearful behavior in a particular location because something upsetting or painful happened to him there in the past. However, dogs sometimes act fearfully in specific places for no obvious reason.

Fear of the Veterinary Clinic

White fluffy Bichon mix with red collar

It’s not surprising that dogs often develop a fear of visits to the veterinary clinic. Few people are keen to go for their annual physical either, but at least they can understand the need for it. Dogs have no idea that the veterinarian is looking out for their well-being. All they know is that once or twice a year they’re bundled into the car and driven to a place with barking dogs and howling cats and people in white lab coats who smell like antiseptic.

Fear of Nail Trimming

Black and white Pit mix gets a nail trim

Trimming nails is an important part of routine care for your dog. Although not all dogs need their nails trimmed because they wear them down naturally, almost all dogs need their dewclaws trimmed. Some dogs are reluctant to have their feet touched at all, while other dogs seem comfortable with touching but not with nail trimming.

Fear of Riding in Cars

A Doberman leans on his friend the yellow Lab

Most dogs are thrilled at the prospect of a ride in the car. Leaping in willingly, they either settle down for a relaxing nap, race back and forth barking excitedly at every passing car or pedestrian, or gaze out the window, sniffing the air and anticipating a fun adventure. There are some dogs, however, who fear car rides. Some dogs dislike car rides from their first experience. Others seem fine when riding in a car until something happens that frightens them.

Fear of People

Chihuahua in blue collar looks up

Like we do, dogs sometimes react fearfully to certain people. A dog is particularly likely to fear a specific person if that person looks different in some way than the people the dog already knows. For example, dogs are often frightened when they see a person wearing a hat or walking with a limp. But some dogs display fearful behavior when in the presence of many people. Many of these dogs only react fearfully to people of a specific gender, size, race or age. Others fear all unfamiliar people, regardless of type or appearance.

Fear of Other Animals

Brown puppy is held by woman in black shirt

Some dogs are afraid of other animals. All animals may trigger a dog’s fear, or only certain species, or only unknown individuals of a certain species. Dogs respond to fear in different ways. If your dog is afraid of other animals, you might notice common fearful behaviors, such as trembling, panting, avoidance, whining, salivating, lip licking, hiding behind people or under furniture, urinating or defecating. Your dog might also frantically attempt to escape from the presence of an animal who frightens her.

Fear of Objects

brown and white dog in blue collar looks surprised

Sometimes dogs develop a fear of objects. A dog might develop a fear of one specific thing or seem fearful around a number of objects. Some dogs only fear objects of a certain size, shape or color. Others fear all unfamiliar objects, regardless of appearance.

Fear of Noises

Speaker

Canine noise fear or phobia is diagnosed when a dog shows fearful behavior—panting, whining, salivating, avoidance or frantic attempts to escape—specifically in reaction to a noise. Noise-related fear can occur when a dog hears a noise, when he’s in places where he’s heard a scary noise in the past, or when he sees an object or person who has been associated with a noise.

What Causes This Problem?

Breed Tendency

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