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Why is my Dog Scared of Other Dogs? Tips to Deal with a Dog's Fear

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. November 10, 2016
Why is my Dog Scared of Other Dogs? Tips to Deal with a Dog's Fear

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Is your dog scared of other dogs? When it sees other dogs, do its ears go down? Does its tail go between its legs? Does it cower and want to run away, or growl at the other dog to try and intimidate it?

Fear is a necessary and vital emotion: It allows animals to react in the face of danger, but if fear turns into a phobia or arises at inappropriate times it can become a big problem, and walks can become very stressful for your dog.

In this Animal Wised article we'll tell you why is your dog scared of other dogs with the best tips to deal with its fear.

Fear due to a lack of socialization

Your dog may be afraid of other dogs due to a lack of socialization. In other words, your dog didn't have enough contact with other dogs when it was a puppy.

This can occur in dogs that were separated from their siblings very early on and who don't know any other dogs in their adopted family. Adult dogs can be socialized, but it's more difficult than training a puppy.

Why is my Dog Scared of Other Dogs? Tips to Deal with a Dog's Fear - Fear due to a lack of socialization

Fear deriving from a traumatic experience

If your dog is fairly easily scared, an accumulation of bad experiences can encourage this fear and even turn it into phobia. This can happen when a small, easily-scared dog comes across large dogs with lots of energy who will want to play with it in a fairly rough manner.

When a young small dog is scared or goes through a traumatic experience as a puppy, it could later growl, bark or behave in other aggressive manners towards any large dogs that it comes across. Note that this may also occur in large dogs. Of course, this fear can also follow from actual attacks from other dogs.

Why is my Dog Scared of Other Dogs? Tips to Deal with a Dog's Fear - Fear deriving from a traumatic experience

Fear reinforced by the owners

Owners often want to help their dog when it is scared by stroking it and talking to it softly to calm it down. However, that actually worsens the problem. Indeed, doing so will only give the dog confirmation that it is right to be afraid.

Forcing him to be among the other dogs is also not a good idea, and it can even worsen the quality of your relationship with your dog.

Why is my Dog Scared of Other Dogs? Tips to Deal with a Dog's Fear - Fear reinforced by the owners

How can I help my dog feel safe?

In order to help a dog that is scared of other dogs, the first thing is to accept it for what it is and not try and force it to overcome that fear in a single day. It will be important to build up the dog's confidence and security.

If your dog gets scared when approached by another dog, it is best if you exude calm and maintain neutral behavior. If try to calm it down by talking quietly to it, it might interpret this as justification for its fear. It could also encourage your dog to continue behaving like this in an attempt to get your attention.

Neither should you force it to be in a stressful situation, as this could traumatize it further and make it lose trust in you. Neither would it help it get over its fear in the slightest. Find out if your dog is stressed because of this situation.

At first, the simplest thing for your four-legged friend is to avoid coming across other dogs. You can help with three different techniques:

  • Desensitization consists of progressively exposing it to the stressful situation until it no longer makes it stressed. In particular, you can keep your dog a few feet away from other dogs, gradually reducing this distance during walks in accordance with the dog's evolution and improvement. You can also arrange meetings with very gentle and quiet dogs, before progressively exposing them to more energetic or imposing dogs.
  • Habituation consists of teaching the dog not to react to the stressful situation: Taking it for more walks in areas where you will come across other dogs will allow your dog to get used to them and thus realize that they are not a threat. If you apply this method, be careful not submit your dog into a situation which is too stressful for it, as this would make the situation worse.

You can apply these three methods together; however, the important thing is for you to respect your dog's learning speed. It is a process that can take time, and it depends on each dog in particular. If you feel that you can't tackle this situation alone, make sure you consult a dog behavioral expert or canine ethologist who will be able to advise you on the best steps to take for your dog in particular.

Dogs are social animals that need to interact with their peers, and helping them to overcome their fears in order to communicate with other dogs is a huge show of love that you can give to your dog.

Why is my Dog Scared of Other Dogs? Tips to Deal with a Dog's Fear - How can I help my dog feel safe?

If you want to read similar articles to Why is my Dog Scared of Other Dogs? Tips to Deal with a Dog's Fear, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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5 comments
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Someone
I think the best is to bring your dog to one of those dog parks or dog socialization groups. Or go out for more walks so your dog can be used to it. It’s convent and easy to do. My dog is still scared. Now she will working in her slow pace. I’m proud.
Ieva
we bought a beagle puppy and the first time we went to a walk with him he experienced a traumatic event - huge dog out o fear pressed him to the ground when he wanted to play. right now he's afraid of any dog there's, old or young, yesterday we met labrador puppy, smaller than him (he is now five months old), he was so afraid of him that he peed and hawled with his tail inbetween his legs. what should i do?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Ieva

It seems that your puppy might be experiencing a sort of PTS due to this its bad experience. In this case, we suggest consulting a canine behavior specialist. A professional will be able to analyse the situation correctly and provide the correct training in making sure your puppy does not suffer any more fear, stress and anxiety.
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Mary Dorr
Just adopted a dog that I did not know was abused. Have zero experience with this and let my two dogs out with it. No problems until they wanted to come in and my dog blocked the way through the sliding glass door and they fought. HELP!
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Mary,

We can understand that adopting a dog which has been abused can seem like a worry, but it can be an extremely rewarding experience. It is a shame you were not informed of their past before adopting as introducing them to new dogs is an important step. We have some guidelines in this article here:

https://www.animalwised.com/helping-an-abused-dog-feel-calm-and-trust-again-704.html

However, the best thing you should do is speak to your vet. They will be able to give your dog an assessment and provide some specific care information. Just remember, they need love and patience, so be careful not to panic or lose your temper, this will set them back. Do everything you can to create a strong and loving bond.
Rating:
Amon
Thanks can't edit to try it out
Administrador AnimalWised
Good luck with it Amon! Let us know how you get on.
Rating:
Katie
Talking calmly to your dog and petting it when it’s scared doesn’t make it more scared. If anything, it helps the dog actually CALM DOWN so it will eventually get over or even investigate what it’s aftaid of. Be patient.

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