When your dog is distressed, he or she can’t tell you why. Often though, we can interpret why our dog is scared because there is an obvious trigger, like a thunderstorm or another dog. But, what if you can’t tell why your dog is scared, and it seems like suddenly they have developed fears, for no reason? It is important to get to the bottom of unusual fears as they could be signs of medical conditions or other problems that you’ll want to fix. Here is where you should start to assess what is going on with your dog.
If you own a puppy and he or she seems suddenly fearful, this could be normal behavior. Dogs go through stages of development where they are more confident, and others where they feel less confident. You can help you dog by encouraging them to approach new things and helping them get used to anything they could be afraid of. Sometimes, for particularly fearful puppies, you might need a professional trainer’s support to help.
Particularly for first time dog owners, the things a dog may be scared of aren’t intuitive. So, if it feels like your dog is scared for no reason, consider if maybe the true fear is something you’ve ruled out. Common fears for dogs that may seem unusual to people include new clothing types the dog has never seen before, new animal types they have never seen, objects and appliances that make high pitched noises that human’s can’t hear and things that appear to or actually do move on their own. You may also be surprised at how much changes in schedules, living situations, or people and pets in the house may affect a dog’s stress levels.
Is it possible that your dog developed a new fear when you weren’t around? It’s sad, but dogs that were rescued may have developed unusual fears because of a traumatic event. Dogs left alone at home may have encounter something frightening, even in their own home. Dogs left with sitters, even in professional kennels, may have been abused. If your dog developed a fear when you weren’t around, you may need a professional’s help to sort it out.
It is possible that you are misinterpreting your dog’s behavior. Instead of scared, they may be sick. Some behaviors that may seem to be caused by fear, but which may actually be caused by a medical condition include:
- Unusual panting
- Unusual barking
- Putting tail between legs
- Not making eye contact
- Lashing out/being aggressive
If you see any of these symptoms in your dog and can’t figure out why, especially if they are accompanied by other potential symptoms, then you should see your vet.
Vets and Trainers
Ultimately, vets and trainers are your best resources for determining what is going on with your specific dog. It is often wise to get a clean bill of health from a vet before approaching a trainer, as vets can rule medical causes out.