Fear and phobias are common in dogs that have had previous bad experiences, poor socialization and, in other cases some are genetically predisposed. Most of these phobias start early on when they are puppies and perpetuate all thorough adulthood unless they are desensitized or eliminated with the help of a dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. These are the most common:
This is known as astraphobia. Most dogs young and old have this phobia to the startling loud sound that comes with thunderstorms. They appear frightened, tremble with flattened ears and the tail curled between their legs. They may also hide, become destructive or poop and pee uncontrollably.
This is similar to the fear of thunderstorms. The loud sounds, smell and lights can be quiet frightening to some dogs. They however, can be accustomed to fireworks through slowly exposing until the phobia is eliminated. In severe cases anti anxiety medication can be administered.
- Separation anxiety
This is fear of being left alone resulting from either a history of abandonment, death of the owner or moving to a new home. A genetic predisposition has also been documented. Dogs can exhibit destructive behavior, bark or whine frequently
Treatment includes teaching dogs skills to manage being left alone as well as the owner changing his routine while leaving the house can help overcome this fear.
- Fear of the vet
This usually occurs as a result of a previous bad experience. Smell of medication, pain from injections and being restrained can also make them fearful. Owners can work around this phobia by making social visits to the vet that don’t involve treatment.
- Fear riding in a car
Most dogs associate a ride in a car with a visit to the veterinarian making them fearful. Car sickness is also a known cause. Giving them treats as well as praise while in the car can help conditioning them to associate it with something nice. Also, strapping them on a front facing seat so that they don’t see objects moving in the opposite direction can prevent car sickness.
- Fear of going up the stairs
This occurs due to lack of exposure and socialization to stairs when they were puppies. Playing a game that involves going up the stairs as well as giving treats can come in handy in getting over the fear.
- Fear of grooming
Dogs that are over sensitive or those afraid of water loathe being groomed. They may become aggressive especially while at the grooming parlor where other over excited and noisy dogs are present.
- Fear of other dogs
This occurs due to poor socialization due to separation from the mother and littermates while still young. They may become aggressive, growl and at times fight with other dogs. It can also result from trauma from previous fights with other dogs. Such dogs are usually territorial of their space. It is normally difficult for owners to retrain such dogs and may need to involve a trainer or a dog behaviorist.
- Fear of people
Some dogs may become fearful towards men especially if they had been abused by humans in the past. They usually growl, snap or can bite when approached.
Some also fear children and interpret their overzealous affection as a threat, this usually happens due to lack of exposure to children.
Other dogs fear strangers also resulting from lack of socialization. Owners can help affected dogs to grow out this fear on their own as forcing interaction can cause them to be aggressive. Providing a friendly and safe environment without locking them in a cage can come in handy too.
- Fear of strange objects
This can range from the vacuum cleaner, motorcycles, lights, ceilings, microwave and dishwasher among other things especially if they produce a lot of noise. Repeated exposure to what the dog is afraid off can desensitize him or her.
Phobias can really affect the quality of life of the dog and can cause harm to the owner due to the aggression that comes with them. Desensitization and exposure to some of the phobias can help eliminate but in severe cases it would be wise to involve a dog trainer or a pet behaviorist.