My dog is scared - what to do?
Hours of petting, throwing balls or walking through the forest without a leash - this is how you imagine life with man's best friend! You trust each other and love each other endlessly, you spend every day together and can no longer imagine life without the other. Yes, the human-dog relationship can be something great, but in reality it often looks very different.
Especially when you want to get a dog from the animal shelter or rescue a street dog, you often imagine scenarios that rarely take place. The fact that the lonely dog, who has mostly been through bad things, immediately gratefully jumps into your arms or wants to cuddle for hours, only partially corresponds to the truth in films.
The fact is that many dogs that end up in the shelter or on the street have often experienced a lot of trauma and cannot cope with it overnight.
A dog that was abused as a puppy will be fearful of people for a long time, just as a human can be feared of dogs for a long time if bitten by one as a child.
How you can recognize fear in dogs and how best to deal with your fearful dog is therefore extremely important in order to strengthen the relationship with the dog right from the start.
Symptoms and behavior:
Symptoms of anxiety can include the following:
- Tremors, drooling and panting
- Wide eyes and large pupils
- The tail is drawn in, possibly pinched under the belly
- Ears and corners of the mouth point backwards
- Stiff posture with a center of gravity to the rear
- Dogs show more so-called calming signals - the dogs' reassurance signals
Behavioral reactions that are increasingly shown by fearful dogs are, above all, freezing, fleeing, fighting or even fooling around.
The fight reaction in particular is often misunderstood by many people and also by dog owners. Because usually when the dog shows aggressive tendencies, there is fear behind it and no malicious thoughts. The dog feels threatened in the situation, which triggers an adrenaline surge in the body so that the dog can fight for its life in the event of an accident. Even if this reaction is inappropriate, the dog cannot change its behavior.
What can you do?
Correct handling of the dog's fearful behavior is extremely important - you don't want to accidentally increase the fear!
That is why you should approach the matter with calm and a large portion of patience and be aware that it can take a very long time until the dog has gained confidence.
It helps to develop daily routines and to offer the dog a constant daily routine. As with puppies, you should approach each situation step by step so as not to overwhelm the dog. Especially when you notice that the dog is frightened, it is advisable to take a step back instead of pushing the dog into the situation.
It is also important to understand that dogs tick differently than humans and that in some situations you should react differently to the dog than we might do with one of our fellow humans. Because when a person is afraid or feels uncomfortable, we usually respond with encouragement and consolation, a hug and a lot of compassion. However, the dog understands these signals very differently - namely as confirmation of fear and the behavior associated with it.
Think of it this way: Your dog is afraid of a man in a black coat and starts to tremble. The owner then takes the dog comfortingly in his arms and begins to stroke him. As with learning tricks, affection is a reward used to encourage the dog's behavior. This is exactly how you reinforce the dog's behavior and the dog realizes: Oh, I reacted correctly in this situation - ergo: In front of men in black coats, it is correct to react with fear.
So how can you act properly to avoid this?
As harsh as it sounds, one should ignore the source of fear and the dog's behavior. This reaction will be particularly difficult for the dog owner, because you often suffer with your beloved four-legged friend and want to help him. By ignoring it, the dog then notices that the fear reaction was apparently inappropriate and learns to avoid it. Of course, this also takes time, but with consistent repetition, your dog will soon understand that his fear is completely unfounded.
If you have the feeling that your dog is a scared dog, it is best to find out more about the correct procedure from veterinarians or dog psychologists. The following books can also help to get started:
- Scared dogs, Bettina Specht, animal learn publishing house
- Stress in Dogs, Clarissa v. Reinhardt and Martina Nagel, animal learn publishing house
- Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, animal learn publishing house
- Change of perspective, Maria Hense and Christina Sondermann, Cadmos Verlag
We very much hope that this post was of some help. If you are familiar with the subject of scared dogs, please feel free to leave your tips here so that you can also help others!