My Dog Is Scared Of Everything

By Ameera Mills. Updated: October 1, 2018
My Dog Is Scared Of Everything

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The syndrome of sensory deprivation in dogs and other animals consists of the development of fears and phobias that cause an instability in the dog. This instability this leads the dog to perform unwanted or irrational behaviors. These behaviors may include; excessive barking in certain situations, paralysis by fear or biting of other dogs and/or humans.

If you have recently adopted a young or adult dog and they are exhibiting abnormal or presumably pathological behavior, you may find that you are facing a problem. This dog has most likely suffered isolation during its critical growth and socialization period. In this AnimalWised we will be discussing why your dogs is always scared, on the basis that it is suffering from sensory deprivation syndrome. We will also be analyzing possible causes, symptoms and how to diagnose and treat this issue.

Causes of sensory deprivation syndrome in dogs

The main cause of sensory deprivation in dogs is due to isolation during the dog’s socialization and neuronal development period.

During a dog’s childhood they go through different phases of development. If, for example, a dog is deprived of stimuli during such periods, it can cause severe damage to the development of their personality, causing aberrant and unwanted behavior when they are older. Such behavior includes pathological fear of everything, aggressive behavior and excessive barking.

These four periods of development during a puppy’s earlier years include:

  • Neonatal period (from birth to two weeks): during this phase, a puppy is limited to seeking food and heat from his mother or siblings. Their sensory or motor abilities are very limited. A dog or other animal, including human being, that is deprived of this period, may not fully develop certain hypothalamic functions (region of the brain that is responsible, among other things, for mood regulation).
  • Transition period: from the third week of age, a puppy begins to respond to visual and auditory stimuli while becoming accustomed to these senses. During this phase, a puppy becomes less dependent on its mother and begins to explore the world around it. They begin to walk more, play, move their tails in response to stimuli and discover touch and bite sensations.
  • Period of socialization (from four weeks to twelve or fourteen weeks of age): this is perhaps the most important and sensitive period in a puppy’s developmental process. Socialization is vital for both the physical and mental development of a dog.During this phase, a dog will begin to understand that they are a dog. This means that they begin to learn how to behave, what is dangerous and how to remain calm. This is also the stage where they should learn where to urinate and defecate and how to relate and behave with other dogs and animals of different species. They begin developing a nature driven by curiosity, becoming even less dependent on their mother and siblings. Dogs should begin socialization with humans at at least six to eight weeks old.
  • Juvenile period (from week twelve to adulthood): during this phase a dog should achieve social independence and not create attachment. The reason for this is that if a dog is too dependent on their owner it can lead to separation anxiety, which can result in destructive behavior. It is essential that during the stage, a dog begins to learn rules and is trained appropriately and positively.

The absence of adequate stimuli during any of these periods can trigger sensory deprivation in dogs, resulting in a scared, shy and/or aggressive dog.

Symptoms of sensory deprivation syndrome in dogs

Now that we can understand what a healthy and normal development of a puppy looks like, let’s discuss its opposition. It is important to understand that any alteration within these phases can induce the appearance of unwanted behavior. Specifically, we need to be aware that isolation of a dog to other dogs, humans or any stimuli can result in the animal suffering from pathological fear[1].

Symptoms of a dog suffering from sensory deprivation include;

  • Paralysis or blockage.
  • Refusal to contact with possible flight or fight responses.
  • Uncontrolled barking.
  • Involuntary urination.
  • Predatory aggression.
  • Overexcitement.
  • Neurodegenerative symptoms: skin problems or digestive disorders (anorexia).
My Dog Is Scared Of Everything - Symptoms of sensory deprivation syndrome in dogs

Why is my dog so afraid?

If your dog appears scared of everything, sensory deprivation syndrome may be the culprit. However, it is not the only possible cause of fear in dogs. Dogs which have experienced multiple traumatic experiences are also prone to suffering from from general fears and phobias. Therefore, if you have just adopted a dog that appears incredibly fearful, find out about its previous life. In addition, we recommend consulting a canine educator or ethologist. A professional will be able to evaluate the situation accordingly and safely, establishing a treatment plan to help the animal.

Diagnosis of sensory deprivation syndrome in dogs

If you think your dog may be suffering from this syndrome, you should first consult a veterinarian who can perform the relevant tests. These tests will aim to rule out any other types of pathologies, determining the dog’s health status. Next, as mentioned before, consult a canine behavioral specialist or ethologist for an appropriate and correct diagnosis.

How to treat sensory deprivation in dogs

A specialized veterinarian or ethologist can appropriately formulate a treatment plan for your dog’s individual situation.This treatment can be include two different therapy types:

  • Behavioral therapy: A dog ethologist or educator will study the case and choose the best treatment for the animal. Trying to work towards and achieve a state in which the dog stops feeling unwanted and irrational fear.
  • Drug therapy: In this case, a veterinarian will establish a medical treatment in order to help reduce the dog’s stress and anxiety levels.

In addition, it is possible that the specialist on your case may decide to carry out a combined treatment of the two options above. Either way, it is vital not to force or push the animal negatively, as this will only worsen and put emphasis on its fears.

My Dog Is Scared Of Everything - How to treat sensory deprivation in dogs

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Is Scared Of Everything, we recommend you visit our Mental problems category.

  • Drape, D.D. (1976). Improper Puppy Socialization and Subsequent Behavior. lOUJ'a State University Veterinarian. 38 (2).
  • Fox, M.W. (1966). The Effects of Short-term Social and Sensory Isolation upon Behavior, EEG and Averaged Evoked Potentials in Puppies. Physiology and Behavior. 2, 145-151.
  • Fuller, J.L. (1967). Experiential Deprivation and Later Behavior. SCIENCE. 158, 1645 – 1652.
  • Landsberg, G.M., BSc, DVM, MRCVS, DACVB, DECAWBM, Director, Veterinary Affairs and Product Development, CanCog Technologies, and Veterinary Behaviourist, North Toronto Veterinary Behaviour Specialty Clinic Sagi Denenberg, DVM, DACVB, Dip. ECAWBM (Behaviour), MACVSc (Behaviour). (2018). Behavioral Problems of Dogs. MSD MANUAL Veterinary Manual.

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