How to Deal with a Dog's Fears
Just like humans, dogs have fears. It is no uncommon for dogs to be scared of a host of things, from other dogs to people to loud noises to the dark. Especially if you have adopted a dog whose previous owner was cruel or abusive, your dog is apt to have developed some fears during his lifetime. Although the age of the dog can potentially mean that the fears are harder to dismiss, you can work to alleviate these fears so that your dog can be a productive member of your household.
Fear in dogs materializes in a many different ways. Look to fearful behavior in order to pinpoint a specific fear that your dog may possess. Fearful behavior includes whimpering, cowering, lowering the tail, uncontrollable urinating, and hiding. Quite often, dogs become lost after running away from a fear and then becoming disoriented in their confusion. This is a common event during holidays, when houses become filled with loud, boisterous visitors. If you know your dog has a certain fear, in addition to working to overcome that fear, you should strive to protect your dog and ensure his safety during these times.
Many dogs have a fear of loud noises. The term "gun shy" is a reference to this condition, although the noise does not always have to be the shot of a gun. Traditionally, hunting dogs that were deemed gun shy were tied to a post and a gun was fired nearby until the fear passed. This method of training was typically highly effective, but unnecessarily cruel. Today, the best way to train your dog to not fear loud noises is to create a soothing environment and speak in a soothing, hushed tone. Especially with dogs that are afraid of thunderstorms, create an enclosed sanctuary for the animal and provide praise and pets while create a sense of calm. Even if your dog does not completely overcome the fear, he will be able to deal with the noise a great deal easier. Also, be sure to bring your dog indoors during thunderstorms or any other events that cause loud noises (such as fireworks displays) to prevent your dog from running away during these events.
Another common fear in dogs that have previously been abused or mistreated is humans. If your dog seems to be afraid or untrusting of humans, you must work to establish trust to replace the fear. Keep the dog in a calm environment and approach slowly while speaking gently to the animal. Avoid any sudden movements that the dog can mistake for violent gestures and provide the animal with praise. Slowly introduce more people to the dog, but avoid immediately having a crowd of individuals overtake the dog. Also, you may need to keep the animal segregated from other animals in your home until he has built up enough trust to ensure that the fear will not develop into aggressive behavior. Furthermore, if your dog exhibits aggressive behavior, it is likely he has a fear and uses aggression as a protective measure.
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