What Causes Fear in Dogs

20th July 2016Dog CareLeave a comment

So why are some dogs so antisocial?

Well it’s usually multi-factorial but here are the main reasons fear type behaviours develop:

 

Inappropriate puppy socialisation:What Causes Fear in Dogs

What Causes Fear in Dogs? Puppies are most open to exploring new things up to about 16 Weeks of age. During this time they will be most bold and actively investigate anything new in their surroundings. The more things they encounter and enjoy the better. However during this time they experience what we call the ‘sensitive period’ during which time anything they do not enjoy or are forced to experience will stay with them as a fear based memory and is difficult to undo!

One of the biggest problems for puppies during these periods is that we keep them in isolation from the world during their most social period ( the vet recommends they stay indoors until fully vaccinated). And then we throw them into the world during their sensitive period ( once vaccination and incubation is complete).

Another major problem is the way we manage our puppies when they are exploring their new surroundings. We put them on the lead and hold it tight so they can not practice their natural ‘greet and retreat’ procedure. Naturally a pup will greet anything new with caution; sniff, watch and listen at a distance then get closer to ‘greet’ then ‘retreat’ to make sure they are safe then repeat. Depending on what they find during this ‘greet and retreat’ process they may stay longer at each greeting and then finally engage if they see it is safe and enjoyable. Having a puppy on a tight lead means we essentially ‘trap’ them close to everything new and don’t give them time to investigate at their own pace. This can cause fear to develop even if the new thing isn’t even that scary!!

Adolescence:What Causes Fear in Dogs

What Causes Fear in Dogs? There is another sneaky period of socialisation during adolescence where ‘single event learning’ com
es into to play. During a period of several weeks somewhere between 6 and 18 months of age the dog will be particularly sensitive to anything negative that occurs. If it is deemed very negative it can have a lasting effect on how the dog behaves in that situation forever! It is a very clever mechanism of the brain to protect young carefree adolescents who throw themselves into dangerous situations in the wild! Do it once, survive and remember never to do it again! Unfortunately in our domesticated dogs it backfires on us as owners.

 

So what can we do to prevent problem fear related behaviours?:

Space. Allow pups space and freedom to explore new things on a loose lead.

Tail. Watch body language. A tail tucked under along with ears flat on head and stiff    body is fear. Remove your puppy from any situation where this happens.

Off lead. Teach a reliable recall so your dog can safely explore things off lead but return to you when necessary.

Positive reinforcement. Do not use punishment. It can cause major aggression issues. Reward based training is scientifically proven to be better.

Fun. Create fun learning for young pups. Make new experiences enjoyable.

Explore the world before vaccinations are complete. There is no reason not to take your puppy out every day in your arms. Let him see, hear and smell the wonders of the world before that first walk once vaccinations are complete.

Adolescence. Manage play with other dogs. Frequently recall your dog to prevent rough play. Manage any situation which could scare your dog.

Rewards. Give your pup food rewards every time he explores anything new

For more information on puppy or dog training please contact us.

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