Fear is a natural response that helps humans and dogs to adapt to new environments. Another thing is pathological fear, which can make your furry suffer, depriving him of numerous pleasant moments. In this post we will address the issue, from a comprehensive perspective and we will give you the keys to face it successfully.
The reason for the fear of strangers
Experts say that canine fear of strangers is a more frequent problem than is usually believed. Four are the most common causes of fear of dogs towards strangers:
1. Inappropriate socialization
It occurs when there is a lack in the relationship with people during the socialization stage. Between 3 weeks and 3 months of age, puppies have to explore their environment and bond with the beings around them. This is essential for their future socialization and to gain confidence in themselves and in others.
Then, during adolescence, it is essential that they continue to maintain contact with different people and environments, to reinforce their positive attitudes towards those who show them affection.
For this reason, dogs that develop in an environment lacking in sociability are prone to showing fearful attitudes towards strangers; also to the noises, places and objects with which they have not been related in their first stages of life. Little joke with all this, because when fear crosses the limits of what is considered normal, it can turn into panic or phobia.
2. Absolute lack of socialization
We are talking about a worrisome stage , in which certain dogs develop a pathological fear , bordering on panic . Known as deprivation syndrome , those affected are dogs that come to feel numerous phobias : adults, children, other animals, vehicles, noise and, in general, any element that is outside their comfort zone.
Generally, it affects dogs that, since puppies, have grown away from the external stimuli they needed to develop in a healthy and safe way.
3. Traumatic experiences
Another reason that can trigger fears in dogs are certain traumatic experiences suffered at some point in their life, such as abuse in its many forms. The abuse can be physical , but so is the continued use of punishment , as a formula to educate a dog , instead of resorting to positive reinforcement.
4. Genetic inheritance
The fear is inherited , specialists say, and is also a key factor in the behavior of dogs . This can be verified directly, when the parents of the fearful dog are known.
Understanding the reasons for canine fears is essential when facing and solving them successfully, always in the hands of the veterinarian or ethologist.
What should not be done in front of a dog afraid of strangers
Remind friends, neighbors and people who want to get close to your furry, that:
- Never pet the dog, without asking first.
- Make it clear that a scared dog may feel self-conscious or respond defensively , with growls, barks, or bites.
For your part, follow these tips:
- Never punish your fearful dog.
- If your dog growls at a stranger , you should not punish him ; With this attitude you will never solve the cause of their behavior.
- He thinks that, after the punishment , the feeling of repressed fear of the dog can suddenly explode in the form of aggression towards the unknown person, who only wanted to pet him.
- In the presence of the “strange” person, give your furry a reward when he obeys your order ; the treat will comfort him and make him associate the “intruder’s” stay with a happy moment.
As you can see, the key to a good coexistence between dogs and humans, both indoors and outdoors, is in positive information and education .
Your dog emits fear signals, you just need to catch them
He who warns is not a traitor, and that is what your dog would say, before growling, barking or biting the person he considers an intruder. The dogs convey feelings of anxiety or fear of the unknown, the following signals …
- Tense body
- Placement of the tail between the legs
- Restless or devious gaze
- Ears back
- Slow and stealthy movements
On the other hand, if your dog is receptive , it will appear relaxed , will wag its tail , or will have a stable and serene look .
How to gain the trust of your fearful dog?
First, explain to the person in question that your dog is afraid of strangers and that he should keep a safe distance, without making gestures that could intimidate him.
Remind him of these three key points:
- You must put yourself in their shoes and think that what for the human is an attitude of affection, for the dog it can mean a threat.
- You do not have to take the first step , it is best to arm yourself with patience and let the dog decide the approach .
- It can be placed next to the dog, but always respecting its space and waiting for it to become familiar with its human scent.
The stranger will have to gather a lot of empathy , patience and affection … but in the end the furry will end up eating from his hand.
As you can see, dogs do not speak, but they are able to communicate perfectly through their peculiar body expressions , gestures, sounds, looks and movements.
Originally a dentist, Anna Strout has written for three years for pet and animal publications. Anna is also a historian who studies dog breed progression throughout the world, dabbles in animal law issues, and collects dog tales while traveling across the country with her husband and German Shepherd Dog, Luna. Anna kicks dust up dancing with Luna at home in Houston, Texas, where she teaches her obedience and tricks.