Dog Anxieties, Fears & Phobias
Understanding dog anxiety
Dogs are our friends. Humans have formed great bonds with our canine companions, and our faithful, furry friends cheerfully accept most situations and events that our combined lives encounter. On occasion, however, dogs may experience a fearful reaction, an anxious response or even a full-blown phobia about a particular situation. This behaviour then becomes a problem for owners – and sometimes even for society – to deal with.
Fear, Anxiety & Phobias - natural behaviours
It is normal to feel fear. Fear is primarily a warning signal, a distressing emotional response to a potentially threatening situation. Fear alerts us to danger. Anxiety arises when an animal expects to encounter a potentially threatening situation. Persistent fears and anxieties can lead to phobias. Phobias generally impede quality of life.
Fear: a learned experience
Dogs learn to fear situations that have scared them in the past. They may also be frightened of experiences that they have never encountered before.
Did you know? Yawning and licking lips can be signs of mild anxiety in our pets
Fears are a normal, natural part of life but when they are irrational and your life enjoyment is altered due to anxiety or phobias, it is time to change." Dr Jo
Reason to fear: Negative experience
Most puppies are willing to meet and greet new experiences with a wagging tail and innate curiosity.Occasionally, however, the experience turns out to be a negative one. Your puppy feels scared. If the fearful experience is repeated or even if it is only experienced once but it extremely painful or fear-provoking, your puppy may learn to fear that stimulus.
Reason to fear: No experience
Dogs may be fearful of experiences that they encounter for the first time. This is because they have had no previous experience of that particular situation. The new experience has them on edge, alert and perhaps ready to flee. Your dog may be experiencing fear, anxiety or phobias to events that they have had little or no experience of in early life.
Reason to fear: Separation from social group
We humans are our pet dog's companions. They fret when left alone. This is known as separation anxiety. Dogs may attempt to escape, bark or whine, show inappropriate toilet behaviours (for example, urinating and defecating indoors) and be destructive around the house or garden. These behaviours will usually cease when the owner returns.
Reason to fear: Pain & illness
Pain or illness cause stress. If you are experiencing pain, then it stands to reason that you should attempt to get out of the situation causing pain. Proceed with caution if your animal is stressed or in fear through pain. Have a vet check.
Reason to fear: Wellbeing & welfare
There are occasions that our dogs' wellbeing may be compromised and their welfare is diminished. This may be through neglect, through abuse or through inadequate provision of needs. More commonly, owners fail to provide adequate care for their pets due to not understanding their unique needs.