My dog is afraid: Common fears in dogs and how to make your dog less scared

Common canine fears: Why is my dog scared? How do I make my dog less afraid? 

Common fears in dogs and how to make your dog less scared
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My dog Hazel is a sensitive dog. If something scares her, she's afraid of it for life. It's the strangest thing that scares her. Like fart noises. That's right, the fart noise you make with your mouth scares her enough that she turns around and runs away. Real farts have no effect on her. Traffic cones also really scare her. She was never involved with any type of traffic cone assault, but when she sees one she jumps in the air and runs away with her tail between her legs. 

Dogs can be scared of the weirdest things, but most dogs have the same fears in common. Fart noises and traffic cones don't make the list, but you may be familiar with these common canine phobias. Some of the most common fears in dogs are:

  • Veterinary visits: This one I'm really familiar with. I have seen so many dogs scared of the vet- some even refuse to walk through the door
  • Fireworks: The loud sound of fireworks scares most dogs
  • Storms: Rain and lightning are not enjoyable experiences for dogs, and most dogs are terrified by the sound of thunder
  • Car rides: Even though some dogs find car rides exciting, riding in the car is a common fear for many dogs
  • Separation anxiety: This is a common affliction in dogs that is caused by the fear of being left alone or abandoned 
  • Noisy household objects: Hairdryers, vacuums, lawnmowers, and objects in the home that make noise can make a dog fearful
  • The house itself: Some dogs are afraid of stairs, hardwood floors or certain rooms in the house
  • Water: Many dogs are afraid to swim, or even afraid of sprinklers and hoses
  • Fear of certain people: Men, children, strangers or even someone in particular could spook a dog 
  • Other dogs: Many dogs are afraid of other dogs. Hazel is very afraid of small dogs because they have been more likely to bark and growl at her

How does your dog's fear manifest

Dogs show their fear in a variety of ways. Sometimes a scared dog will bark, howl, growl, or become aggressive. Some dogs run away or hide. Many tuck their tail between their legs. Some dogs show their fear through destructive behavior, chewing or destroying things in the home. Some dogs even shed more and become gassy.

I don't think there is a pet parent in the world who wants their dog to live in fear. While sensitive dogs like Hazel may always be afraid of ridiculous things, most dogs become afraid because of their past experiences. There are a few things you can do to make your dog feel less scared.

Common fears in dogs and how to make your dog less scared

Boost your dog's confidence

Positive reinforcement training is a great way to boost your dog's confidence. When a dog learns new tricks it can really boost confidence and getting positive feedback can boost it even higher. A confident dog is naturally less fearful. Reward your dog with affection, treats, and play.

Remain calm

When your dog encounters something scary, stay completely calm. Dog's feed off of people's energy. If it doesn't scare you, it will become less scary for your pooch. Don't encourage fear. Sometimes comforting your dog too much when it's scared reinforces your dog's fear. Keep calm and carry on!

Exposure therapy

For some dogs, getting exposure to what is making them scared- like the vacuum or certain people- can help desensitize them. Start with small doses- short amounts of time close to a running vacuum. If it seems to be working, slowly increase the time. Your dog may discover that there's nothing to be afraid of. After all, vacuuming is pretty essential when you own a dog.

Common fears in dogs and how to make your dog less scared

Products that may help

Years of working in veterinary medicine have helped me gather information about products that really work. There are tons of calming products you can purchase from pet stores, but I want to focus on three products that I know work well for a lot of dog owners. 

The ThunderShirt is a product that essentially swaddles your dog. The hugging action helps calm some dogs. I've heard mixed reviews about this product, but I will admit more people swear by it than tell me that it doesn't work. 

Royal Canin Calm Diet is an incredible diet that I've used with my cat and it really works. It has therapeutic ingredients that block anxiety receptors. Plus it's nutritionally balanced. Calming diets are great because you're going to feed your dog anyway, so it's easy. 

Adaptil collars and Adaptil diffusers for your home use natural pheromones to calm your dog. I've had a lot of positive feedback about the Adaptil products. 

Visit your veterinarian

Dogs with extreme anxiety will benefit from a trip to their veterinarian. Your vet may recommend training tools, refer you to a professional trainer or behaviouralist, or prescribe medication or supplements that can help. If you are able to, take a video of your dog reacting to what scares them so you can show your vet. Your veterinarian is a dog expert and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to help you reduce fear and anxiety in your dog. 

Remember that some dogs may b fearful of certain things no matter what you do. Dogs have natural instincts that you can't train out of them. Some dogs just have a sensitive personality- like Hazel! The world is full of fart noises and traffic cones, and often times all you can do is be there to provide comfort and love.

Common fears in dogs and how to make your dog less scared

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Common fears in dogs and how to make your dog less scared

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