Fearful Scared Dog

Origins and Symptoms; What makes a dog fearful?We have to differentiate fear from phobia. According to the dictionary, fear is a feeling of worry due to the presence or thought of danger; on the other hand a phobia is a specific and very intense fear. Therefore, the phobia is a pathological phenomenon, since the reaction of the animal is not proportionate in relation to the cause. When the animal is in danger or a situations that it considers dangerous it does not have time to reflect and responds with a series of innate reactions. Later on, experience provides the dog conscience of danger and teaches it to interpret the signs and decide what conduct to adopt. For example, if the dog hears the sound of a motor, it will know that a car is coming and it will run to hide. This is a normal reaction. But if it receives this stimulus over and over and realizes that nothing happens, it will understand that it's not a risk. This is how the principle of reeducation of a nervous dog works.

Fear is frequently translated in urination, excrement, shaking, salivation and the acceleration of the heart. The external signs of fear are the positions of the tail and the ears. It is normal that the dog is afraid of loud noises, like fireworks. The dog catalogued as fearful is scared by daily noises, ringing phones, doorbells, and situations that are not dangerous at all. The animal cannot be calmed down, not even after the leading stimulus disappears. It seems to suffer an alteration that prevents it from controlling itself, and the dog is convinced that the cause of its fear is still present. In that case we have to desensitize the dog by trying to get its attention on something else. The scared animal can destroy everything because of the noise. Another possible reaction is running and hiding. We cannot discard the fact that the animal can bite if we try to tranquilize it. The animal can also stay completely inhibited, urinate and stay still. This response is typical from animals that have an owner who is completely authoritarian. The digestive alterations are also frequent. All these fears are due to the lack of stimuli during their lives as puppies. The dog must be accustomed to every kind of stimuli when it is a puppy.

The fear can also be caused by bad memories which have been associated to something that happened: the animal would not be scared if it had not gone through such a horrible thing. The dog that has been bitten by another dog will always fear other dogs. Therefore, if the dog encounters another animal this would lead to signs of panic or aggressiveness. We can say that it is not surprising that large dogs are afraid of small dogs in this case.

What to do? Since it is not possible to explain with words, that the situation is not dangerous the dog will have to realize it on its own and we will have to help it. A totally normal reflex is to caress the dog, while saying comforting words, but on the other hand we have to stop doing that because this can reinforce the feeling of fear in the dog. If we are afraid of getting on a plain, we can do it with the company of a friend who can distract us during the flight and reach the point of forgetting the fear. We will follow this same principle with the dog: associate the situation of fear with a pleasing one, so that the animal can associate fear with pleasure and not anxiety. If the dog is afraid of cars, we can give it a treat right in the moment that a car is passing by and pet right after, without consoling it. We can also call the dog to play when the dog passes by. Another technique of reeducation consists in to progressively get the dog used to the situation that produces fear. This system is valid for all those situations that occur regularly. It does no good to light up fireworks every year to celebrate the Fourth of July Parade. The important thing is to be able stop the self created fear rapidly. If the dog is afraid of cars, we can ask a friend to drive his car next to us and when the dog shows that it's afraid he drives away. It is necessary to present the young dog with as many stimuli as possible. In the case of a fearful dog, we have to reinitiate this learning progressively and place the dog in stimulating situations.The Dog that Runs Away

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