Recognize Signs That Your Dog is Afraid

Most dog owners believe they are good at reading their dog’s emotions, yet our trainers get lots of calls about behaviours that—at their root—reveal a fearful dog. The good news is: if you become an expert at reading your dog’s feelings, you can then ease those fears, give your pup a much happier life, and control those unwanted behaviours.


Fear can bring out the worst in us, and the same can be said for our pets

What are the signs?

Dogs display fear in different ways. Cowering and whimpering may be the most obvious signs, but panting, pacing, growling, barking, nipping, biting, and a tail tucked between the legs can also be signals that your dog is afraid. In fact, some of the most common problem behaviours, like nuissance barking or aggression, are usually a fear response at their root. If your pet avoids eye contact, cowers, seems anxious, or is otherwise distressed, fear is probably the reason.

Learn their triggers

In order to help your pup, you’ll need to determine what things or situations are prompting their fear. For example, loud noises are one of the most common triggers. Fireworks, thunderstorms, and even the noise from your vacuum cleaner can all trigger fear in your pet.

Some pets fear riding in cars, or going out in public to unknown places.

Others are afraid of strangers, especially those that come into your home and your pet’s territory.

They may fear children, other dogs, or even you.

Alternatively, some dogs have a fear of separation that triggers anxiety.

How can I treat it?

Once you have identified the triggers, you could begin by minimizing your dog’s exposure to them. Of course, this may or may not be possible or practical in the long term.

Depending on the type of trigger, you may then be able to build up a positive association with the trigger, to replace the fear. Start small, and work very slowly. Use lots of praise, and never force it.

If the fear response is severe or has been reinforced for a long time, behavioural training may be necessary. Since every dog and situation is different, your trainer can make a detailed training plan that will help your dog learn to overcome their fears, and in time, perhaps even enjoy the thing that used to make them fearful.

No matter the cause or severity, treating your dog’s fears requires patience and perseverance. Remain patient with your pet and never yell or punish them for being afraid. Instead, help them feel safe by providing shelter and calm leadership.

As always, if you need one-one-one help, get in touch with your local Bark Busters trainer!