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Why Your Dog has Phobias and How to Help It

How do you react when Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

Little Fido is as cute as a button, and everyone loves him. He, however, runs straight to the balcony when guests enter the home. You explain, only too awkwardly, that Fido is a rescue dog with more than his fair share of traumatic experiences with aggressive people and dogs.

You'll want to help Fido to overcome his fear of people and other dogs so that uncomfortable moments such as the one above will not be the norm. So how do we help him quash his insecurities?

Why your dog has Phobias

Why does your pet have irrational fears? It all boils down to its past experiences, how well its owner has socialized it and whether it is genetically predisposed to phobias.

1. It's in the genes.

Timid dogs are likely to have skittish offspring. A dog with overall phobias, instead of specific ones, is more predisposed to having irrational phobias.

2. A History of Abuse

It's not surprising that a dog has a fear of strangers if it has been mistreated before. If your new pet has been on the receiving end of abuse, it will take some time to acclimatize to strangers or other pets.

3. Poor Socialization

If a dog does not have regular walks around the neighbourhood, it will find unfamiliar dogs or people rather frightening. Give your pet a chance to meet other dogs.

3. Poor Socialization

Common Fears and Phobias in Our Pets

So, what are our furry friends typically afraid of? If we observe our little furkids, we'd notice that these occurrences make them a little jumpy.

1. Thunderstorms

Your furkid might be like my rescued stray, Zorra, which trembles when there are thunderstorms. Thundershirts come in handy as they help to absorb vibrations that are the result of the loud thunder.

2. Strangers

If your furbaby is anything like Zorra, it'd find strangers overwhelming. When Zorra first came to us, she used to hide in the balcony when anyone unfamiliar visited. Of course, this was somewhat awkward and I found myself having to explain my dog's actions. Tips for helping your pet get over its fear of unknown people and adjust confidently are in another section.

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3. Other Dogs

My West Highland White Terrier, Cloudy, recently had her ear muscles injured after a rather aggressive stray bit her ears and dragged her along the grass. Thankfully, albeit a sagging ear muscle that makes lifting her ears a task, the courageous canine ( she fought back valiantly) is perfectly fine. I will provide suggestions on how to deal with dog aggression in another section.

4. Blood Injections

If needle pricks scare your pet, it is not alone. Pets are like children; the stong of a pinprick turns it off doctor's visits.

So, what does one do if Fido runs to the balcony or worse still, growls when a stranger tries to touch him? Constantly explaining the skittish behaviour is rather draining, and finding guests to visit you will be a task. Thankfully, there is much you can do to ease the process.

1. Prepare Your Guests

For a start, you can let your guests know ahead that Fido is a little panicky. A little information raises a person's empathy level and will make him or her more predisposed to accepting your pet's situation.

2. The less stress, the better

Then, consciously avoid the situations which scare your pet. If you know it's a neighbour's dog, observe when it goes out and try not to arrange Fido's walk during those times.

3. Speak to a vet or behaviourist

If your pet's behaviour is disturbing, speak to a professional, be it your veterinarian or a behaviourist who can help you to set up situations that will calm your pet.

4. Expose your pet to people and other animals

Get your pet out and about as much as possible. Allow it to meet people and their pets. You will soon notice a marked change in your timid dog.

A case in point is my local crossbreed, Zorra, whom we rescued after it got into a fight with other strays on one of Singapore's offshore islands.

5. Obedience Training

Get your pet used to basic obedience commands. It is easier to get your pet to respond appropriately to strangers if he knows how to sit or stay down. Your pet will recognize that he is in a safe situation and that the stranger or dog is not likely do do him harm.

Amy Bender The Spruce Pets

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Michelle Liew

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