- Fear is a response to a danger; something the dog deems as unknown, possibly a threat
- Anxiety is the anticipation of a response
- Stress is the emotional, physical and mental demand on the dogs body or brain
Dogs brains work in a way similar to ours: their natural response to a scary situation can vary, for example the “flight”, “fight”, “freeze” or “fool around” responses.
Each dog is an individual and fear, anxiety and stress will be manifest in different ways through their actions, communication and body language. These vary in severity from mild to severe. Leaving a dog to cope with its fears can lead them to develop unpredictable behaviours, for example the ‘bite’ that comes from nowhere (the dog’s unease and display of distancing signals typical in a fearful animal may not have been recognised or were ignored). Here are some examples:
- Reaction to stimuli: cars, dogs, people…this is often perceived as aggression but in many cases is the over reaction to a trigger. The reaction may vary, for example reacting to all cars or specific cars; only people wearing hats – the dog may display barking, lunging and twisting on its lead
- Resource guarding: the fear of loosing something the dog sees as valuable to them like food, a comfortable spot or a trusted human (anything the dog sees as a high value resource)
- Separation anxiety: for some dogs they find it hard to be left alone, this can manifest in a variety of behaviours such as vocalisation, destructive behaviour; chewing, pacing, urinating or defecation
Dogs can be helped to over come fear and anxiety with counter conditioning and desensitisation. This may be a gradual process through an individual action plan with activities that assist your dog, including mental enrichment, calming and focus on managing their environment.
If your dog’s behaviour has changed suddenly before visiting you I may suggest having a veterinarian check to rule out any underlying illness, medical condition or pain which may be causing this.
Any questions ?
If you have any questions or enquiries please feel free to contact me