Dog phobias are as numerous and varying as humans. Many of them have to do with inbred survival instincts and threat assessment, while others may be due to past experience or sensory overload. It can be very difficult to watch your dog cower in fear and not understand why.
When your usually joyous pooch is overcome with whimpering timidity it can be easy to chalk it up to the moment’s reaction and neglect the root of the problem. Discovering the cause and then managing your dog’s phobias can be difficult but will, in the end, make him a happier and more secure pup.
Common Dog Phobias
Many dogs will share common phobias due to genetics, instincts, or negative experiences. You will usually be able to tell if your dog is afraid if he begins trembling, barking, gnawing on his paws, and breathing heavily. Sometimes, if scared enough, your dog will show signs of aggression and may even lash out at other dogs and people. If your pup is showing signs of fear, it may be because of one of the following common phobias.
Phobia of Unknown People and Dogs
Dogs that are not well socialized may fear strangers and other dogs that they do not know. This is a relatively easy phobia to identify as every walk or dog park visit may have your dog trembling wildly or barking like mad. Sometimes this fear is borne by the past. A negative experience at the hand of a human or other canine could’ve paved the way for a phobia. It may also just be because you pup doesn’t trust that which he doesn’t know.
The best way to overcome this fear is simply to get your dog out and into the world as often as you can. Having puppy play dates early on, as well as acclimating him to a wide variety of people can go a long way towards nipping this phobia in the bud before it develops. There is a reason why some consider socialization to be more important than training in the early stages of a dog’s life.
In dogs that have had bad past experiences with other dogs and humans, bringing them around the more stoic and gentle examples of both species and allowing them time to get to know each other can seriously mitigate this phobia.
Phobia of Fireworks
Everyone knows a dog’s ears are far more sensitive to sound than our own, so it makes sense that sudden, unexplainable booms will have a dramatic effect on their state of mind. Whether it’s the scream of Roman Candles or the sharp crack of an M-80, Fourth of July can be a terrifying experience for a pup.
The phobia of fireworks is well known to dog owners. Their cowering, whimpering fear makes it nearly impossible to enjoy that Independence Day BBQ. Overcoming this phobia may prove to be impossible as getting your dog used to them is a relatively difficult thing to do on even a logistical basis.
Phobia of Traveling
Be it to the vet or to that vacation destination, be it by land, sea or air, many of dogs fear the day they are forced from their homes and into the unknown. The reality of the situation is that it will usually be difficult for them to understand where they’re going, why they’re going, and how they are getting there.
Traveling can be a terrible time for a dog, so the best way to manage this phobia is to make it a common occurrence. The more you do it, the less he’ll fear it, as it will become the norm. The tactical delivery of treats pre and post travel will give him something to look forward to and make the event rewarding for him.
As for your dog’s fear of going to the vet – it is understandable considering the stress of examination and the pain of vaccination. Having your pup and his vet become friends will go a long way towards managing that phobia.
Other Common Phobias Dogs Have
Many of the other phobias a dog can have can be managed by slowly exposing them to their fear and normalizing it. These include:
- Phobia of men
- Phobia of children
- Phobia of household items (vacuum cleaners, fans, etcetera)
- Phobia of stairs
In all these cases, working with your dog and consulting with your veterinarian can help him manage his phobia(s) in a productive and healthy manner.