Posts Tagged ‘signs of fear in dogs’

In Part II of “Why do dogs bite?” we discussed the importance of empathy when dealing with fear response in a dog. Since dogs tend to bite due to fear, the pet owner must become aware of the pet’s triggers and work with that information to promote confidence and trust, in order to lessen the likelihood of a biting incident.

Why do dogs bite? Part III
Look for signals that your dog is afraid. Speak to your pet in a calm, lowered voice. If possible, remove him from the area where the fear object is located. In some instances, especially at the veterinary office, this may not be possible. A certified professional dog trainer can work with you on techniques designed to prepare your pet for car trips, grooming appointments, and doctor visits.

What does a dog look like when it is afraid and anxious?
The signs may start out as subtle actions, which can be considered normal behaviors in another context. The subtle behaviors include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Panting

If the source of fear or anxiety is not removed, the pet may progress to more noticeable signs of fear. These include:

  • Tail tucking
  • Flattening ears against the head
  • Salivating
  • Pacing
  • Staring
  • Eyes wide
  • Stiff posture
  • Fur standing up
  • Lunging
  • Barking
  • Growling

How can you prevent dog bites?
*At mealtime: do not approach a dog, or attempt to take away its food. Feed dogs in separate rooms or at separate times, if they do not get along.

*If a pet “steals” items (socks, toys, etc.), it may try to protect the item. Behaviorists recommend trading a treat for the stolen item.

*A pet that growls aggressively from beside its owner is often thought to be protecting the owner; behaviorists see the pet responding to a fear object and hoping the owner will protect it. Respect the dog’s fear and avoid sensitizing it further.

*Don’t believe the tail. A dog may wag its tail right up until the moment it bites you. Behaviorists recommend worrying more about the biting end than the wagging end of the dog.

Behaviorists’ tricks of the trade
In conjunction with training techniques, a behaviorist or trainer may recommend the use of synthetic pheromones or aromatherapy sprays to help calm an anxious pet. Other options include:

*Supplements designed to enhance a pet’s learning ability during training

*Positive reinforcements to reward desired behavior

*Clicker training

Training aids should be used as part of an overall training program designed to enhance a pet’s confidence and ability to respond to commands. Commands can be used to provide a distraction, pulling a pet’s attention away from the fear object in order to relax the pet and prevent a biting incident.

In the case of a fearful pet, training may be best accomplished in a private setting, rather than in a group. The trainer can tailor a program to meet the needs of the dog and its owner.

Est. 1973

Some information for this article was gleaned from “Clue in on canine anxiety cues” by Dr. Valarie Tynes, DACVB and Heather Mohan-Gibbons, RVT, CPDT, ACAAB. Firstline magazine, February 2011.

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