Behavioral problems

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me?

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me?

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Perhaps you have just welcomed a new dog to your home and they are afraid of you. Or maybe this behavior presented itself all out of a sudden. It's clear that having a scared and unhappy dog is not ideal for anyone in the household. This is why in this article from AnimalWised, we are going to help you understand why your dog is suddenly scared of you and what you can do to help.

You may also be interested in: Why is My Cat Scared of Me?


  1. Why is my dog afraid?
  2. How you can stop your dog being scared
  3. Why is my dog suddenly afraid of me?
  4. My dog has been afraid of me since I hit them
  5. My dog is afraid of me and trembles
  6. My dog is afraid of me and urinates

Why is my dog afraid?

Being afraid is an emotional response that is triggered when the animal is exposed to a threatening stimuli. This is why there may be many reasons why your dog is scared. This emotion is not in itself negative, since it involves a survival mechanism that helps avoid elements that are hostile and allows one to safely adapt to the environment.

However, what is negative for the animal and our coexistence with them, is for them to be fearful of everyday elements that in fact, do not threaten their survival. When a dog becomes frightened of an everyday element, it is very difficult for them to function properly in their environment. This causes them to be stressed and anxious. When this element is their human companion, it is particularly problematic.

First, we will explore where fear comes from. Fear is an emotion caused by the interaction between two elements:


Apart from inheriting physical characteristics from their parents, temperament is also inheritable. In fact, fear is a feature with a high possibility of being transmitted from parents to children (there's about a 50% chance).

In addition, by nature dogs can be afraid of stimuli with which they aren't familiar. This instinct, which is called neophobia, has been inherited from their wolf ancestors (or another common evolutionary link). It is a defense mechanism that allows them to protect themselves from possible dangerous stimuli when encountering something new.


This will be determined by the different elements of the environment that have interacted with the dog since they have been a puppy. In other words, socialization. This is the education received when first introduced to new people, animals and environments. It's recommended to be very careful in this part of a puppy's life as any negative experiences they encounter can affect their temperament as an adult dog.

Poor socialization will affect the future of the dog and make them more fearful of certain elements, espeically those that are unknown. It's important to note that any traumatic experiences will leave a strong imprint on the personality of the puppy when they become an adult. Therefore, it's very important to socialize them progressively and never force situations on them.

In the same way, an education based on punishment and shouting will establish a poor relationship in trust between the dog and their owner. This is because it will be based on control through fear and intimidation. This promotes an insecure character in the animal, since they need a lifestyle that provides security.

Finally, if the dog has ever experienced a negative situation associated with a certain stimulus, it is very likely that in the future this stimulus will generate a fear response when exposed to the animal. For example, if your dog was bitten by another dog, they might begin to feel unsafe in the presence of new dogs.

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me? - Why is my dog afraid?

How you can stop your dog being scared

Here we provide advice on what you need to do to if you have observed your dog is fearful. First, you must ask yourself what stimuli is he afraid of? Analyse the situations where you observed this emotional response from your dog as this will be the key to understanding and helping them overcome it.

1. Avoid what scares them

Once you have located the element that threatens your dog, you must now try to change their routine to avoid it to the best of your abilities. For example, if your dog is now scared of other dogs, you can take them out on a walk when there are less dogs in the neighborhood or perhaps take them out in a new, more peaceful, location.

If your dog is scared of you, you can help them by giving them space and time. Do not approach them, speak in an intimidating voice around them or make sudden movements. Instead, allow them to come to you, speak in a soft voice and be careful of your movements. This way, they will understand they you are not a threat and that they are safe around you. As for their walks, perhaps you can get someone else to take them out on a walk until they learn to trust you again. Be patient with this process.

2. Expose your dog to the element progressively

Once you have the situation under control, you can now begin to slowly and progressively introduce the fearful element little by little. This methodology consists of desensitization and counter conditioning. They will slowly challenge their fears and learn that it is in fact, not a threat to them. Slowly and gradually you will introduce it back into their lives.

Desensitization consists in the progressive exposure of the dog to the stimulus generated by fear. It must always be in an intensity and duration that does not provoke fear, so that your dog gradually becomes more tolerant of that element. If your dog is scared of you, you must first give it space and time and not approach them. Later you can begin to get a little closer, allowing them to see that you are not a threat. And finally, you will pet them, go on walks with them and eventually get back to your trustworthy relationship.

3. Give them a prize

As you get closer, you must always respect your dog and their wishes. That is, if you've come a bit closer but that is intimidating them and causing fear, then you must move away. We want them to associate us with pleasant stimulus. This is what is called counter-conditioning. A great way to reward them when they approaches you is by giving them a healthy treat. Later we can also pet them if they feel comfortable with that.

The learning process for the dog to lose their fear will take time. It can last for days or even months, depending on the individual and their circumstances, such as age, breed or if they were mistreated in the past.

In that case, you may be interested in the reading our article about how to help an abused dog.

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me? - How you can stop your dog being scared

Why is my dog suddenly afraid of me?

Perhaps you and your dog have been having a good relationship but then, all out of a sudden they starting acting scared of you. They could tremble in fear, flee, hide, tug their tail behind their legs, etc. If this is the case, your dog now doesn't trust you. You will need to gain their trust back. This may be for many reasons, here are the most common:

My dog is suddenly afraid of me scolding him

In most cases the explanation is that we have reacted disproportionately in response to what the animal has done. We must understand that as humans we have a different reasoning than dogs. Therefore, something that seems justifiable to us and, in some cases, is even for their sake, they can see it as completely incoherent.

For example, we could have scolded our dog for breaking a pot, thinking that they will understand why we are so angry. However in their eyes, we are behaving aggressively without an apparent reason. This negative experience may cause them to see you as a violent or threatening figure.

My dog is suddenly afraid of me because of a bad experience

It is also possible, although less usual, that your dog has taken fear because of a confusion. That is, that he had a bad experience and related it to you. An example of this would be that he felt pain at the time that you caressed him and thought that you are the cause of that discomfort.

If this is the exact case, it's important that you go to a veterinarian who will be able to identify your dog's pain. For more information, visit our article on how to identify that your dog is in pain.

It's best to go to the vet to also rule out any physical problems. Once you are certain that is not the case, then you can consider other options and begin to gain your dog's trust again.

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me? - Why is my dog suddenly afraid of me?

My dog has been afraid of me since I hit them

Training a dog can be a slow process and sometimes a bit tiresome. However, we should not, under no circumstances, hit our dog when we're training or educating them. Not only is it a cruel act, but the dog doesn't understand why you're assaulting them. They only feel that you are intimidating them and they feel scared around your presence.

Even if punishment has worked for you in the past, using physical punishment will bring negative consequences to your relationship with your dog and to their over-all well being. Your dog will relate these violent actions with you and see you as a threatening stimulus. These actions will also influence their mental well-being and their physical well-being. Every animal should feel safe in their home. Although it may be difficult, try to be more understanding and educate them using positive reinforcements.

Positive reinforcement in dogs

For all the reasons mentioned above, animal abuse is completely unjustified. Especially if we can train them with better methods, such as positive reinforcement.

A key element to improving your relationship with your dog and your co-existence is being patient and understanding. A dog will behave like a dog, simply because they are dogs. We can help the coexistence by teaching them basic commands, but we must understand that we too need to make sacrifices for the relationship to work. Positive reinforcement in dogs is not only the most sustainable and efficient but also the best for our dog's health and happiness.

To learn more about dog training, make sure to read our article on obedience training for dogs, or the best techniques for dog training.

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me? - My dog has been afraid of me since I hit them

My dog is afraid of me and trembles

Tremors are a physical reaction due to a stimulus that generates a very strong emotional response. In this case it would be intense fear. This emotion is associated with high stress that triggers tension in their muscles, which causes tremors. In more serious situations the dog could become completely immobile.

In these situations, we recommend you consult an ethologist. They are professionals that can analyse the situation and correctly advise you on how to improve the psychological well-being of your dog. If you want to read more, please visit our article why is my dog trembling in fear.

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me? - My dog is afraid of me and trembles

My dog is afraid of me and urinates

If your dog urinates when you approach them or when you pet them, they are petrified of you and is likely submission urination. This behavior is common when a dog is in front of another individual that is threatening them. This urination for dogs means they are trying to communicate that they are harmless so please, do not harm them.

Submission urination is also present in highly stressful and scary situations. For example, if you are in a very stressful situation where you do not know what to do, you are likely to perform involuntary urination due to a lack of control of your sphincters. It is not strange in this context that a dog, apart from peeing, also defecates.

For more information, you can check out this AnimalWised article on why does my dog urinate when I pet him?

If you want to read similar articles to Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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Can anyone help my dog got ran over 5years ago survived not sure if that is why he is so timmid or that he suffers with bad ears but more recently he has become so timmid when you go near him he runs away or hides if you go to stroke him he looks for a get away 😞I never shout or smack but feel so sad he misses out on so much love can suggestions greatfully appreciated
Duane Putnam
My dog is a rescue and I would like to know how to rid her of the fear of men including myself.
my dog has not been with our family for very long, but when we first got her she was completely normal and she was never scared of us. But recently, she barks and growls at my younger sister very often for no reason when she pets her, and my sister (who is eight) doesn't want to spend time with her anymore. And just a few days ago, my dog was constantly barking at the neighbours, and my dad got irritated and told her to go outside. My dog got scared and peed everywhere, so my dad got really angry and sent her to the backyard.
When my dad went out there to give her a little pat she was really scared and started whimpering and laying down, trying to hide.

Later on my dad tried to put her in a cage to do gardening and my dog was really scared. I love my dog very much and I told my dad to stop scaring her, and when I called her over she came to me, and tried to hide behind my legs. My dad tries to hide it, but I know he is slightly hurt that my dog doesn't want to play with her anymore. My sister is upset and cries often and doesn't want to pet her anymore.

Please help. I don't know what to do and I'm the only one to actually spend time with her and play with her. But my parents are divorced and the dog is at my dads but I spend less time there, and I feel bad for leaving my dog there with someone she is scared of.

I have noticed that recently my dog barely goes near my dad anymore, and she keeps barking at my sister. She follows me everywhere and is very obedient with me and never barks or pees in the house when I am alone with her.
It's possible you little sister did something unintentionally to cause dog to become nervous around her. Another likely scenario is that your dog sees your family as it's pack. A pack has an hierarchy, Alpha being the pack leader, he eats 1st, gets 1st pick of bedding, and so on. That's why it's important for your dog to see you as the alpha. Even though your dog understand he's not top dog, (at least he should), he still will to try to assert dominance over other members of the pack. They have to figure out where they fit into this hierarchy.
So, if he is indeed trying to show dominance over your lil sister you need to put him in his place.
This can be done without negitive reenforcement, different ppl have different methods do a lil home work and you'll figure it out.
Heres a few tips...
When training don't keep a food bowl that is always full,( you shouldn't be doing that anyways, control their diet.)
When it's time to eat make sure your dog sees you and your entire family eat before he does.
Especially your little sister, put the dog in the kennel. Then put your little sister right in front of him and let him see her eat (do not feed him during this process!!) . When it's time, have your sister let him out of the kennel. Let him see her fix his meal. Then have her give the sit command, (and stay!! He should not advance towards the food bowl until he his given the release command, giving him premission to eat. You might have to coach your sister and dog a lil bit at 1st, just keep it the routine consistent until they can do it without your help.
Also, leash your dog when train, let your sister hold & control the leash with your dog 100% aware that she has the leash and is in control. (when giving commands 1 person at a time should be giving commands, otherwise your likely to confuse and stress your pup.
Repeat process with other family members until your pup understand where he fits into his social environment. He's on the very bottom of the social ladder.

My almost 2 year old girl is very nervous all of a sudden. Nobody has hit her or hurt her, she hardly even gets yelled at because she is such a good dog. Recently, she has been incredibly nervous around the entire family. At first, it was just my dad, then my sister, then my mom, and now it's starting with me. She's my dog, she sleeps on my bed, I feed her and I give her the most love so the order she developed nerves around each of us makes sense, but I just don't understand why. If you approach her she'll lay down on the floor and cower, sometimes she even pees. After she pees, she cowers and runs away.
I love my girl and I want her to be happy and I'm just wondering what triggered this all of a sudden. She used to be the happiest dog ever.
Emma, did you resolve this issue with your dog? If so how? I'm currently going through a very similar situation with my 18 month old and I'm really struggling with how to help her.
My 2 year old chihuahua is suddenly afraid of Just me and I am at home with her all the time. She is MY dog. I’ve had her since she was 2 months old. I live with my boyfriend who is at work all the time and she loves him too. We have friends come and go and loves them too. I have never hurt her or raised my voice more than normal. She likes everyone and is very social. Just all of a sudden when I, (just me) call her she comes and then stops, backs up and runs under the couch. I think it mostly happens with food or treats (which she eagerly always comes running for) I usually tell her to sit or stay or both nothing unusual, just having use good manners and now, out of nowhere, she simply won’t.
I’m sad and don't know what to do. She’s normal other than that. She sleeps with me she sits with me she goes where ever I go. But this? This is so strange. Please help.
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Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Me?