Even though a term like ‘Guard dog’ exists and we imagine most dogs (especially larger ones) as protectors, defenders, brave & fearless animals, they’re actually very shy and scaredy. If they’re threatened, they bark and attack but in everyday life, there are actually so many things that spook them silly. Sometimes it is funny, but a lot of the time, the fears of your dog could lead to inconveniences and excess trouble. Here are the biggest fears of dogs and tips as well as tricks to overcome them.
Loud noises (e.g. fireworks & thunder)
Dogs have a hearing that’s actually three to four times more sensitive than humans. Thus, it should come as no surprise why loud and bang-like noises scare them very, very much. When there’s a thunderstorm or the fireworks show on New Year’s eve, it’s quite a common sight to see a pup shivering, shaking or even soiling themselves. There isn’t a direct and simple solution to this. Dogs are wired this way and that’s just in their DNA. Fireworks and thunder are too loud.
You could give your dog a sedative if the situation gets completely out of hand. However, one of the most effective tactics is to just be with your dog at all times. Pick them up, pet them and say nice words, just like you would with a baby… Really. If you can’t be next to them, locking them out in a room with good sound insulation might work too.
If the previous fear is super inconvenient and very saddening, this one is actually quite fun. If your pup hasn’t encountered any flights of stairs before, brace yourselves for something entertaining. They won’t go down or up, they won’t trust the stairs and will act awkwardly around them. There are tons of funny videos online of people trying to persuade their pets to come down to them or come up to them by the staircases.
For a while the dog is visibly anxious, running around the stair and barking more than trying to climb it. However, with enough positive reinforcement and nice words, people persuade them to take the first step. Once they do that, it’s the same old story. You need to do as much reinforcement for them to take the next stair, and then the next one after that. Once they climb it for the first time, it could also be pure entertainment to watch them go down. But once they catch on how it’s done, they act pretty normally. So, the fear of stairs is only temporary and easily defeated.
No gender equality here. Some dogs have quite a profound fear of men, and to be honest, it isn’t something that they’re born with. It is something that’s gained over time. Such a fear indicates that in the past, the dog could have been physically or mentally abused by a male. They recognise how a man differs from a woman and are thus, less afraid of females.
Fully treating and eliminating this fear/phobia isn’t always possible. Sometimes the emotional and physical trauma is so severe, that a dog never fully recovers and isn’t able to trust. Such pets usually end up in animal shelters or in homes where they can be put back on their feet. The only viable option is to be kind, gentle and very very slowly try and warm their heart towards males. With that being said, we have to once again acknowledge the fact that fixing it isn’t always possible.
This is definitely a common spook for dogs, but it can be overcome and defeated, so to speak. This fear can only be blamed on past grooming mistakes of the pet’s owner. When you’re using nail clippers, you have to be super careful not too trim too much of the nail off. If you do that, you’ll end up clipping the nerve or cutting into the live part of the nail which is super painful and blood will come out.
Whether it’s just a simple fear or a whole phobia – depends on the dog and how sensitive their nervous system, as well as how severe are traumas, sustained in the past. The first thing to do, regardless, would be to try a more sensitive and welcoming approach to nail trimming. Use treats, positive reinforcement, pet them after every clip (and/or give a treat) and be more attentive, in general. Read their body language to know whether you can proceed or have to take a step back.
The second step would be to change the clippers into an electric grinder. The former tool is very primitive and dangerous, even. If you make even a tiny little mistake when measuring the clipping point, you’ll end up hurting the pet. In contrast, it’s almost impossible to hurt a dog when you’re using an electric grinder. Some of the more sophisticated devices have a guiding angle and specific tips, suited for dogs of all sizes. All in all – use a grinder and positive reinforcement.
Vibrating and whirring devices
Some dogs are easily unnerved and distressed by whirring and vibrating devices/appliances in your home. Now once again, not all dogs are distressed, others are more curious rather than scared. However, if you notice that your pup is trembling and immediately hides or squeals when you turn something on, take that into account.
One thing that you will likely have to do, is change some of your appliances and devices into silent & non-vibrating ones. For example, you could look for a silent robot vacuum or a silent/quiet nail grinder (You can read more about those on this website).
Nevertheless, it’s worth investing into the grinder. It’s going to solve at least one fear, or maybe two, if need be.
Strangers & other dogs
In shorter terms – that’s the fear of socialization. It can arise from just being shy, in general, and a lack of socialization. Now, regardless of their character, with enough socialization, all dogs stop being so shy and the fear of strangers & dogs slowly evaporates. Needless to say, it’s super important to teach them how to behave around other people and dogs. If they feel combative, scared or are hard to control around people and other pets/dogs, you need to spend time in order to properly socialize them.