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Running Scared.

Helping Your Frightened Dog

Dogs have different reactions to fear. Typically when afraid they will hide, cower, lower their head, flatten their ears, put their tail between their legs and possibly roll over in submission. In worse situations a dog may shake, or freeze, and loose control of bladder or bowels. For some dogs their reaction to fear is aggression; growling, barking, or biting. If your dog becomes aggressive when scared, it may be wise to seek professional help to fix this problem.


There are common fears shared by many dogs such as, thunderstorms, trips to the vet, and car rides. Unfortunately, some dogs have grown fearful of a variety of common situations. If your pet exhibits excessive fear check with a vet to ensure that there isn’t a medical issue. The good news is that many fears can be reduced through training. For instance, if your dog is afraid of strangers, with help from a friend slowly and carefully introduce the dog to your friend. If your dog starts getting nervous stop and try again later. Exposing your pet gradually to its fear will usually help him adjust. However, don’t force the situation. In dealing with fear what you don’t do is very important. If your dog becomes scared take a break and let him relax. Never punish a dog for being scared. Even though some of the behaviors associated with being scared are not welcome punishing a dog at that moment will only reinforce its fear. Recognize that some situations are more difficult to train for, and that some dogs adjust to certain situations better than others.


For instance training for a thunderstorm can be difficult. While tapes of thunderstorms can be purchased, the full effect only occurs during an actual storm. Part of the fear is likely due to loud volume which can be quite painful to a dog’s sensitive ears. There are also herbal remedies for anxious and fearful pets, and sometimes prescriptive medicine is useful if a pet’s reactions are extreme. While a shy or skittish dog can often be helped, be realistic in your expectations. Through training and alternative treatments a pet’s anxiety can often be brought to a manageable level.



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