Dogs have very keen senses, especially hearing and smell. While these gifts help them survive, they can also leave them vulnerable to developing fear associations. Additional causes of phobias in dogs include genetics, lack of proper socialization, and previous negative experiences.
The frightening stimuli listed below are among the most common fears and phobias in dogs.
As you can see, each has a profound effect on one or more of their senses.
There are a few reasons thunderstorms inspire terror in so many dogs. The most obvious is the noise. Dogs’ hearing is two to three times more sensitive than our own. For them, the booms of a summer storm are far louder, far closer, and far more jarring.
Recent studies have found that the loud cracking sound of thunder is just a small part of what makes storms one of the most common phobias in dogs. Thunderstorms also alter the atmosphere, releasing a large amount of static electricity into the air. Dogs experience this static as a tingling throughout their hair coat and may even receive multiple shocks before the storm lifts.
According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior department at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, this is why many dogs flee to grounded areas of the home during thunderstorms. Basements, bathtubs and enclosed spaces tend to have less static electricity.
Dodman, Vetstreet’s Dr. Marty Becker, and many veterinarians around the world agree that rubbing your dog’s coat with a dryer sheet can be quite effective at minimizing static. However, they recommend doing this infrequently and using an unscented brand to reduce your dog’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Much like thunderstorms, fireworks are one of the most common phobias in dogs. In fact, a 2013 study by the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences found them to be the number one trigger for fearful behavior. Not only are fireworks extremely loud, they also cause frightening odors and visual effects.
In addition to the sensory component, some scientists feel there is a genetic aspect to noise phobias in dogs. A 2015 study conducted by the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Oslo found a “marked correlation” between breeds and noise-sensitive fearfulness.
If your dog suffers from noise phobias, you will be happy to learn that many pet professionals oppose the theory that comforting fearful dogs reinforces their fear. Veterinary behaviorist Melissa Bain told the New York Times:
“You can’t reinforce anxiety by comforting a dog….You won’t make the fear worse. Do what you need to do to help your dog.”
3. Car Rides
Aside from the fact that cars are big, loud, and move way too fast, they can also cause motion sickness in canine passengers. No wonder riding in cars is high on the list of common phobias in dogs!
It can be difficult to tell the difference between car sickness and true vehicle anxiety so most experts recommend addressing both. Desensitization training and anti-anxiety medications are helpful for fearful pups, but motion sickness is a bit more complicated.
Protect your dog from nausea in the car by restraining him in a forward-facing carseat, seatbelt or crate. This prevents the dizzying effect of seeing objects whiz past in the wrong direction. It may also help to crack a window in order to equalize the air pressure inside the vehicle. If you do not wish to medicate your dog, try withholding food for several hours before a drive.
There are four main reasons dogs may be fearful of stairs. One, a lack of exposure in their younger days has left them with a fear of the unknown. Two, they had a traumatic experience on or near a staircase. Three, they have been restricted from using the stairs in the past, causing a negative association to form. And finally, a medical condition like arthritis or hip dysplasia makes climbing stairs difficult or painful.
Whatever the cause of this prevalent dog phobia, a combination of counter-conditioning, desensitization, and plenty of patience can help your pup overcome it.
5. The Vet
In humans this phobia is sometimes referred to as “white coat syndrome.” Feeling nervous when faced with poking, prodding and potentially scary medical news is normal for us, but this phobia in dogs is more about sensory overload.
A veterinary office is full of new and frightening sights, sounds, smells and sensations. In addition to the volume of stimuli coming at them, our intuitive pups can sense the fear and pain of the other animals and perhaps even the grief of the human in the room next door.
If visits to the vet are a source of fear for your dog, try stopping by for non-medical visits. Plan ahead so the staff knows you are coming and ask them to love on your pup, play with him, and offer his favorite treats. A few of these “happy visits,” will hopefully teach your dog that the vet staff are not out to get him!
6. Being Alone
Several factors can trigger separation anxiety in dogs including abandonment, death of a previous owner, moving to a new home, or experiencing a drastic change in their schedule or lifestyle. There is also evidence that certain breeds have a genetic predisposition for this type of phobia.
COMMENTS FROM LOVINMYPUP.COM:
This article is a great summary of the fears and the phobias that your dog may experience. From thunderstorms to separation anxiety there are many causes for your fur baby’s anxiety. Some breeds even have a genetic disposition to separation anxiety, in addition. There is one area that I have experienced that is not on this list. I have a service dog for mobility. There have been certain times where Bella was unable to accompany me on a shopping trip. She was injured or ill . When I returned to the home, I found every roll of toilet paper unraveled and bits and pieces all over the house. She would not look st me for at least an hour. Luckily she is usually able to go with me so we do not experience her anger on a regular basis.
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