Is your dog a scaredy cat? Fears and phobias are common in dogs. To us, some are understandable (thunder) and some are silly (Christmas decorations). But if your dog has a fear of something, it’s perfectly serious to him! Here are some common dog fears and how you can help your dog overcome them.
1. Going Up and Down Stairs
Many dogs are afraid of going up and down the stairs. The most common reason for this fear is lack of exposure when young. If a puppy grew up in an environment without stairs, he may grow up to be intimidated by them as an adult. Your dog may also have a bad memory of falling down the stairs in the past. Teach your dog to view the stairs as something fun and positive by using encouragement and praise, even if he just takes one or two steps at a time in the beginning. Reward your dog with treats when he takes those first few steps up or down the stairs.
2. Separation Anxiety
Does your dog hate it when you get ready to leave the house? Experts describe separation anxiety as a dog’s fear that her humans will never come back when they walk out the door. Try desensitizing your dog to your comings and goings. Don’t pay too much attention to your dog as you prepare to leave the house, as this often makes it worse. On days when you’re not actually going somewhere, pick up your keys, go out the door, then come back in. You can also give your dog a treat before you leave the house.
Vacuums are noisy and they can seem big and intimidating to smaller dogs. Desensitization is the key to helping your dog overcome his fear of vacuums. If you keep your vacuum shut away in a closet and only take it out once a week, try leaving it out in the open so your dog will get used to it being around. You can also record the sound of vacuuming on your phone, then play the recording while you give your dog a treat and play with him. He will come to associate the sound with positive experiences.
Is your dog afraid of people she doesn’t know? It’s possible that she’s just shy and timid, but a more likely cause is lack of socialization when she was a puppy. Ask a friend to come for a visit and tell him to ignore your dog—no eye contact or petting. Have your friend simply put treats on the floor nearby. Your dog will warm up to the person without feeling intimidated. It’s important to remember that a fearful dog may snap or bite, so never ask a stranger to pet or handle your dog.
5. Taking a Bath
If your dog heads for the hills when it’s bath time, you’re not alone. While some dogs just don’t like baths, others are genuinely afraid of them, most likely because of a bad bathing experience when younger. Help your dog overcome his fear of baths by rewarding calm behavior with treats. Make sure the water is comfortably warm and put a non-skid mat in the tub. Try using a wash cloth on his face if he dislikes running water. A pet sprayer attachment with adjustable settings and a long hose can also ease his fears of water coming full force out of the faucet.
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