How to treat fears in dogs

The contact with traumatic experiences or the lack of exposure of the animal to certain situations during its socialization stage can make a dog afraid in certain circumstances, as we will see later. In many cases, these fears can easily be treated, but in some cases they require the help of a professional, preferably a veterinary specialist in ethology, that is, specialized in animal behavior problems. If you do not know how to treat fears in dogs, in .com we give you some basic tips.

The puppy socialization period

Although when you read this it may be too late, we must emphasize the importance of this period, since it is fundamental in the development of some fears and phobias.

It is at this stage, which extends between the month and three months of the puppy's life, when the animal knows the stimuli that are in the world around him, while developing his brain.

Sometimes, if the animal has not known any stimulus during that period, such as cars, motorcycles or people of different races than their owners, then they may recognize them as something strange and fear them. For this reason, it is advisable to expose the dog to various situations at that stage.

We must emphasize that, in those months, the puppy has not yet received all the necessary vaccines to be fully protected, which could be infected by some disease. That is why it was traditionally said that it was not good to get the puppy out of the house until the last vaccine was received, but now it is advisable to do so in order to prevent future behavior problems.

Anyway, to prevent infections, it is convenient to take it out in a controlled manner, that is, without allowing the puppy to contact other dogs not vaccinated with urine or canine feces, or with puddles, standing water ...

This can be achieved by taking short walks, not necessarily every day, only by clean areas.

The habituation

If you have not properly socialized your dog, we advise you to use the technique called habituation .

Habituation is based on presenting the stimulus that causes fear to the dog in a calm environment and nothing bad happens, from less to greater intensity. You can reward the animal when its responses are acceptable (be calm and do not bark, do not try to flee ...).

For example, if the dog is afraid of thunder, you could reproduce the sounds of them at home, from less to less intense, when the dog is relaxed, without scolding or punishing him. It is very important that during the exhibition nothing unpleasant happens and rewarding you when you do not respond in an undesirable way, when you are calm.

It is much better to do several short sessions than a long one and it is highly advisable to perform these techniques under the supervision of a professional.

There is another method, called flood, which involves exposing the dog in a controlled but abundant way to the stimulus and rewarding it later, but it is a dangerous technique and always requires strict control by a professional, so it is not recommended at the domestic level .

What you never have to do

  • Use psychodrugs (lithium chloride, fluoxetine, diazepam, etc.) on your own or on the advice of a trainer because, although some behavioral problems are necessary, only veterinarians can prescribe them.
  • Try to comfort or reassure the dog when it has panic attacks. With this the dog interprets that you are trying to protect him because the stimulus is highly harmful or dangerous, which will make him even more afraid.
  • Use the flood or the habituation "to the beast". For example, if a hunting dog is afraid of shooting and you tie it to a tree while you start hitting shots, the dog will assimilate the shots to a punishment (being tied) and this, together with the stress that is the situation in itself, will cause the animal to fear the shots much more than before. Remember that we have said that during habituation nothing unpleasant should happen to the dog.