Dogs have fears. Maybe not like you or I, but they do get worried by things, many of which we see as everyday objects or occurrences. Of course, proper socialisation as a puppy which continues to some extent for the rest of the dog’s life, should ensure that your dog doesn’t have many fears, if they have any at all.
Sadly, not everyone has that luxury, some have rescue dogs that had never left a cage, or a farm, or house, until being re-homed; still others have dogs who, for whatever reasons, are just scared. Perhaps they were particularly ill as a puppy, or are from an ‘aloof’ breed or type. So, how do you know when a dog is scared of something?
Many people think that a dog is scared when he tucks his tail between his legs, but that is not the first sign of fear, and it certainly isn’t the only way a dog will show he or she is scared. Often, behaviours that show dogs are worried are fleeting; but knowing what early signals to look for could avert a reactive response, a bite, or even just let your dog know that you’ve “got their back”.
Did you know that something as simple as sudden shedding or dander, can show that your companion is feeling a little stressed? What would you think if your dog suddenly sat down and started scratching, is he itchy, or is he feeling a little tense? Does your dog tense up when she sees another dog, perhaps only when she sees the dog that she ‘hates’, this is a small indicator of how she feels around that dog.
Does your dog sometimes try to avoid looking at a certain other person, dog, or other stimulus? Do you know what your dog is communicating when he avoids eye contact like this? (Hint: Inka is the ‘proud’ owner of a new “cone of shame”, I asked him for a kiss earlier, and he pointedly turned his head away from me!)
When Inka is afraid of something, he might sink to the floor, or crouch against a wall or other vertical object. If I’ve done something to make him worry (such as when I walk into a door frame and hurt myself), he will slink up to me, bum practically on the floor, licking his lips, and I will receive a good few minutes of appeasement behaviours, much as I tell him my being a klutz has nothing to do with him.
What other behaviours can you think of that show a dog is feeling anxious or fearful; do your dogs do any of them?