If your dog has been acting scared, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. In this post, I will show you common reasons why dogs can act scared and what options you have in dealing with it.
So, why does my dog act scared? Possible causes are someone mistreating it, injury, stress, hearing noises it does not like, being unsure of its environment and inadvertently intimidating it.
There are actually many different reasons why your dog might be acting scared and it could be due to a combination of them. There are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why it has been doing it and there are a number of options you have when getting it to stop being afraid.
Why your dog has been acting scared
Below are common reasons why dogs act scared and what would make them more likely to be the reason why yours has been doing it.
Someone mistreated it
The cause could be that someone mistreated it. This would be more likely if it has started acting scared suddenly, if it avoids certain people or if you know that someone was recently aggressive towards it.
In this case, it would help to ensure that it is not put in a position where it might be mistreated again and to give it positive attention regularly. If its behavior does not improve over the course of days or weeks, it would help to get help from a dog behaviorist.
The reason why it has been being afraid could also be that it has gotten an injury. This would be more likely if it has started doing it suddenly and if it has been showing other signs of being injured. In this case, the best option would be to take it to a vet.
Encouraging the behavior
It could also be the case that you have inadvertently encouraged the behavior by giving it things it wants when it does it. If you tend to give it things such as extra attention, toys or treats, when it is afraid, it might encourage it to do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, it would help to give it rewards when it is behaving the way you want and to use positive reinforcement training to change its behavior. It would also help to try to redirect its focus when it seems likely to start acting afraid.
The reason why it has been doing it might also be that something has recently caused it to become stressed. This would be more likely if it started acting scared after an event occurred that might have caused it to get stressed. Such events could include an owner or another pet dying, another pet being added to the family or moving homes.
In this case, it should improve over the course of a few days or weeks. It would help to give it positive attention in the form of training, exercise and by playing with it. If it does not improve, it would help to get help from a vet or dog behaviorist.
The cause could be that it can hear noises that it does not like. This would be more likely if it tends to do it more at certain times such as when there are construction works or fireworks outside.
In this case, it would help to try to reduce the loudness of the noise or to use desensitization training.
It’s unsure of its environment
If you recently adopted your dog it could be the case that it is unsure of its new environment. In this case, it should begin to improve over the course of a few weeks or months. It would help to give it positive attention in the form of training, exercise and play. If it does not improve it would help to get the help of a vet or dog behaviorist.
It’s still young
If it is still a puppy, it could be going through a timider stage that many go through. In this case, it would be likely that it will become less timid as it gets older. However, it would help to follow the tips below and to seek professional help if it does not improve its behavior.
You have been intimidating it
The issue could be that you have been intimidating it. Instead of approaching it quickly, aggressively or by getting emotional with it, try to interact with it in a calm manner.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out why your dog has been doing it.
When your dog first started acting scared
If your dog has not always acted scared, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it since it could be the case that there was an event that caused it to start.
If it started doing it more suddenly it would make it more likely to be due to things such as being mistreated, a change in its diet or getting ill or injured. It would help to consider if anything else changed at around the same time that it started doing it.
Whereas, if it has always been that way it would be more likely that it learned to be that way by rewarding the behavior, being in a new environment, being a puppy, illness, injury or previous owners mistreating it.
When your dog normally acts scared
It would also help to consider the timing of when it tends to be afraid since the timing might also have something to do with it.
For example, if it tends to become scared when you are about to leave then it would be a sign that it has some separation anxiety. Whereas, if it does it more when there are certain noises outside it would be more likely to have something to do with the noises.
If it is always afraid, it could be due to being mistreated, being in a new environment or it could be due to a more serious issue. If the behavior has persisted, the best option would be to take it to a vet.
How old it is
It would also help to consider the age of your dog since its age will have an impact on the most likely cause of it being afraid.
If it is a puppy, it would be more likely that it will stop doing it as it gets older but it would still help to give it lots of training, exercise and positive attention.
Whereas, if it is an adult, it would be more likely to be due to one of the above reasons.
What to do about your dog acting scared
Below are some options you have when dealing with your dog being scared.
Get help from a vet
If you cannot figure out why it has been behaving that way, it has been doing it for more than a few days or it has been showing signs of being injured, the best option would be to take it to a vet. By doing so, you should be able to rule out medical causes and to get expert advice tailored towards your particular dog.
Get help from a dog behaviorist
If you are unable to get it to stop being scared but it is otherwise healthy, another option would be to get help from a dog behaviorist in your area. By doing so, you should be able to see why it has been behaving that way and how you can get it to stop.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
As mentioned above, it might be the case that you have encouraged the behavior by giving it things that it wants when it does it. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want, to give it positive reinforcement training and to stop rewarding it when it starts being scared but to reward it when it shows signs of stopping.
Be calm with it
Since your own actions might be causing it to be acting that way it would help to be calm around your dog and to avoid making intimidating gestures. It would also help to give it lots of positive reinforcement training as opposed to punishment-based training.
Avoid physical punishment
It would also help to avoid punishing it since it might not know why it is being punished and it could be contributing to it being afraid. Instead, it would help to get it to behave the way you want with the use of positive reinforcement training.
Ensure that its diet is correct
It could also be the case that an issue with its diet has been causing it to behave that way. This would be more likely if it has started being afraid suddenly after a change in its diet.
It would help to make sure that you have been feeding it correctly and it would help to make sure that no one else has been feeding it without telling you.
Give it positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training is where you encourage your dog to behave the way you want by rewarding it when it shows signs of behaving that way. To use it to get it to stop being afraid, you could reward it when it shows signs of stopping being afraid.
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