Fearfulness in Dogs
Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether in response to a stranger or startling noise, your dog may display certain body postures, including lowering his head, flattening his ears back against his head, and tucking his tail between his legs if he’s scared.
A frightened dog may also pant, salivate, tremble, pace, or try to escape. He may show submissive behaviors—avoiding eye contact, urinating submissively, or rolling over to expose his belly—or he may freeze and remain immobile. Some dogs will bark and/or growl at the object that is causing their fear. In extreme cases of fearfulness a dog may be destructive (out of general anxiety or in an attempt to escape), or he may lose control of his bladder or bowels.
Causes of Fearful Behavior
Determining why your dog is fearful is helpful but not always essential to treating the fearful behavior, although the reason for his fear will dictate the relative success of the treatment. A dog who is genetically predisposed to general fearfulness, or a dog who was improperly socialized during a critical stage in his development, will probably not respond as well to treatment as a dog who has developed a specific fear in response to a specific experience. It’s essential, however, to first rule out any medical causes for your dog’s fearful behavior. Your first step should be to take your dog to your veterinarian for a thorough medical evaluation.