Phobias of dogs: how to understand them, treat them and avoid them? – Understand your dog

Dog phobias are common. Exaggerated fears in the presence of certain people, the veterinarian or even if there are fireworks, these fears are difficult for the owners. Usually, they have their origin in the first months of the animal’s life.

A dog that refuses to go to the vet at risk of breaking its collar? Who will run away or on the contrary become aggressive when she meets men (and not women)? An animal scared of the vacuum cleaner? The phobic dog will trigger manifestations of low intensity in the presence of habitual stimuli. Dog phobia is a pathological condition of fear that is important to identify so that it can be easily treated.

How to show a phobia of dogs?

A phobia is defined as an excessive fear of a non -dangerous situation. Phobias are common in people: claustrophobia (fear of closed areas), agoraphobia (fear of people), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), even emetophobia (fear of vinegar!).

What is less known is that this fear of pathology can also affect our dog friends. The most common phobias in dogs are:

  • Phobias of people or a type of person (e.g. men or children)
  • Phobias of other dogs or certain breeds
  • Phobias in some animals
  • Situational phobias (visiting the vet, driving, etc.)
  • Phobias of loud noise (thunder, fireworks, gunshots, etc.)
  • Phobias about a particular object (umbrella, shopping cart, etc.)
@Shutterstock Firn

These situations trigger easily recognizable manifestations of anxiety and fear: the dog puts his tail between his legs, flattens himself and puts his ears up. His disciples were expanding. She may seek to run away or hide, and sometimes urinate, contaminate or empty her anal glands.

This panic can also cause aggression, especially in the case of so -called social phobias (towards certain people or dogs). Attacks due to fear are one of the most dangerous because the animal cannot control itself.

Gradually, the dog’s phobia will worsen and the animal will anticipate situations that will frighten it. This is the case, for example, of the dog who is afraid of the gunshot and who begins to show signs of fear when his master dresses up for hunting. Or the case of a male-phobic dog attacking any male person who enters the house.

Where do dog phobias come from?

Behavioral veterinarians believe that some phobias in dogs are a disease that develops during socialization (approximately 1 to 4 months). It is likely that the genetic factors that favor the onset of anxiety will also come up.

An example of this is the case of the dog who never saw a child when he was a puppy. Unsocial in this category of individual, the animal may develop a fear that, if not treated (even if it is reinforced), can become a phobia. When the puppy is confined in the first months of his life, it may, during adoption, develop a general fear of his new environment called deprivation syndrome.

Phobia in dogs is also called traumatic origin, for example in the event of abuse, severe learning or repeated painful experience (veterinarian phobia in dogs).

Phobias of dogs: how to understand them, treat them and avoid them?
@Shutterstock Olga Golovkina

How to treat and prevent phobias in dogs?

To treat dog phobia, it needs to be identified. Then, penalties that will only exacerbate the situation should be avoided.

The phobia of dogs is not random. In fact, these exaggerated manifestations of fear can pose a danger to the animal itself or to those around it.

In case of severe and occasional phobia (fireworks, visit to the vet), we can use a tranquilizer that will work for a few hours. In highly anxious dogs, background anxiolytic treatment may be helpful to allow behavioral therapy to be implemented.

The latter is long and based on different techniques:

  • Habituation: this involves slowly bringing the phobic dog into contact with the object of his fear. If you have a pooch phobia of the vacuum cleaner, you can for example leave it lying in the middle of the living room without operating it for several days, then run it at low speed without working for a few minutes, add power on to the next, then pull it a few meters and so on …
  • Counter-conditioning: this involves linking the anxiety-provoking stimulus to another pleasurable one. For example, if your dog has a phobia of people, you can give him attention if you have a pass on the road. This makes it possible to divert his attention and above all to relate the thing to be feared (the person) to the thing to please (the candy).
  • There is no reinforcement of fears: it is important not to take your pet in your arms or try to reassure him with gentle words, it only aggravates his conviction that a great danger is surrounding him! Instead, keep doing your business as if nothing happened (unless your dog is in danger of hurting himself or attacking someone, of course).
Phobias of dogs: how to understand them, treat them and avoid them?
@Shutterstock Elias Praciano

To avoid phobia in dogs, it is important to put them in contact with a rich and positive environment in the first months of their lives. Habituation also makes it possible to anticipate certain phobias, such as gunshots in dog hunters, where louder recordings can be heard.

Dog phobias are not easy to cure, but the game is worth the effort to have a good companion in his shoes!

Also read: Can my dog ​​and cat cry?

Isabelle Vixege

veterinary doctor

Phobias of dogs: how to understand them, treat them and avoid them?

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