When we feel stressed, we take a bath, have a glass of wine or go to the gym. Your four-legged best friend doesn’t deal with stress in the same way. Instead, dogs follow their instincts. Sometimes that means destroying furniture, chewing on doors or window frames, attempting to exit their crates, howling and even having accidents in the house. They don’t do this out of spite. Fears and phobias commonly affect dogs of all ages and breeds and their distress is the cause of their behaviors.
Common Fears and Phobias
Some common fears and phobias in dogs are: noise phobias, such as fear of thunder, fireworks, vacuum cleaners, or construction noises, fear of animate stimuli, like certain people, pets, or other animals, and fear of inanimate stimuli such as a car ride, the vet’s office or other objects they may associate with an unpleasant experience.
Why They React
If a dog cannot avoid what frightens him or her, they decide to use aggressive displays to intimidate the source of their fear. Anxieties, fears and phobias are controlled and modulated by different and complicated bodily systems which include the central nervous system (CNS), the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This means that when our pets experience any of the above anxieties or fears, they are not acting out, but reacting to these experiences in the only ways they know how.
Signs to Look For
When scared, dogs crouch their bodies, and bristled fur can be noticeable along their necks and backs. They may also run and hide in a quiet corner or under a bed where they feel safe.
How to Help Your Pet
If your pet is affected by anxiety or by variable degrees of fear, it is advisable to consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist as these are medical conditions that need the assistance of an expert. Treatment plans including management, behavior modification and possible medications are tailored to the pet’s needs.