Fears and Phobias
Fears and phobias are relatively common and can affect dogs of all ages and all breeds. But there is a difference between fear and phobia.
Fear is a normal response to an actual or perceived threat or situation, while a phobia is an exaggerated fear response that can completely overwhelm a dog. The fear is magnified out of proportion to the actual situation.
Some dogs are predisposed to certain fears because of poor breeding or by experiencing an event that makes them fearful. Unless it is addressed early, the fear becomes all-encompassing and turns into a life-altering phobia.
Commonly Found Fears in Dogs:
Fear of cars and car rides
Fear of going to the vet
Fear of children
Commonly Found Phobias in Dogs:
Baby crying phobia
If your dog has a phobia to anything – including fear of certain sounds in the environment such as street noises, sirens, babies crying, children playing, fireworks, or thunderstorms – he is feeling a very real emotion and care must be taken when creating a treatment plan. Be very patient, go slowly, and never force your dog into situations that overwhelm him.
What Therapies Can Be Utilized to Help Fearful or Phobic Dogs?
There are many ways you can lessen your dog’s fear.
Thanks to years of research, there is solid proof that specially-designed bio-acoustic music has a calming effect on dogs that are exposed to it, which also calms fearful dogs in any situation, as well as dogs that have phobias to certain noises.
Music has a positive effect when played in environments or situations that a dog might find overwhelming such as in a car, boarding facility, shelter, day-care or at the veterinarian.
Music can also help promote relaxation when played at home or calm a dog that suffers from anxiety when left alone.
Massage can help promote relaxation and lower stress levels.
Certain scents and pheromones can calm fearful dogs.
Teaching basic cues will activate a dog’s thinking brain which in turn deactivates his emotional brain. Therefore when a dog is thinking he has less time to be emotional. This is why teaching cues and doing problems solving activities such as scent work helps to turn fear into curiosity.
Providing fearful dogs with mental enrichment is vital. Providing him with interactive toys and puzzles will help stimulate his mind.
If a dog is too overwhelmed to learn, medication might be needed. This will take the edge off the fear so your dog is able to learn again. Fear causes shut down and when a dog is shut down no learning can take place. Medication can help him get to a better place, but must only be used on the advice of your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviourist.
Neurotic reactions or phobias may have important secondary gains for the patient. The irrational fear brings sympathy and increased attention, help and affection from helpers. It is for this reason that that a phobic reaction may persist long after the basic need for being fearful does not exist anymore. The dog seems to realise, unconsciously, that there are advantages to the condition, and is reluctant to give it up.
Fears and Phobias