Trick or treat: what scares dogs?
Halloween has come and gone and for many of us, it’s been a chance to catch up on scary movies and to hand out candy to intrepid door-knockers. But that got us thinking: in the doggy kingdom, what scares dogs more than anything else? What are some of the common things that they cower in the face of? And how can we help them overcome these neuroses?
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Dogs are terrified of weather conditions they don’t understand, and you can put thunder at the top of that list.
More often than not they begin to pace the room before the first clap of thunder has even sounded; when the sound arrives, its ominous tone can drive a dog into hiding, or into scratching the walls frantically.
Consider giving a dog a “safe space” that he can go to when the storm is raging. You might also investigate pressure garments available at all good pet stores, which are said to help comfort a distressed dog. Or how about getting creative? Try sensitizing your dog to the sound by playing a YouTube video – depicting thunder – on repeat.
A dog might growl at a passing cat or get its back up when faced with a rival pooch, but wild animals are often the creatures they’re afraid of most. Depending on where you live, you might have coyotes or skunks to deal with, and even animals on the small scale (like the skunk) can be a perceived “threat”.
If you regularly top up your dog’s bowl outside and leave it out in the open, consider letting them eat indoors after dark, and keep an eye out on them when they’re in the yard. Chance encounters with animals they haven’t seen before, who are feral to boot, can really shake up a domesticated dog.
Seeing you leave the house
Are your neighbors complaining about your animal’s barking when you’re out? Are you returning home to find cushions and furniture in disarray? These are sure signs the pooch isn’t happy about being left alone. Not to worry, because separation anxiety is incredibly common.
Try altering the way you (A) leave the house in the morning and (B) return home in the afternoon/evening. Always watch your energy; keep it low key. When you’re coming in and out of the house, make it as uneventful as possible. Don’t foist too many gifts on your dog when you return and don’t give them too much attention when you leave either.
That’ll only worsen their mood during the intervening hours of the day.
Cars and dogs are a match made in heaven right? Well, not always. Plenty of dogs dread long car journeys, and this is especially the case if they haven’t been introduced to the vehicle from a young age. In this case, treats are a good way of getting them in, but from there, you should keep the length of the journeys to a minimum at first. Slowly but surely get your dog used to the feeling – it might be the case they had a bad experience as a very small puppy, or they might simply find that the sensation of being on the road makes them sick. Whatever the reason, start out slow and keep a watchful eye on the situation. If the dog really seems unable to cope with the stress of the situation, you might need to consider traveling closer to home.
Believe it or not, many dogs might be afraid of ascending and descending the stairs in your home. In these cases, use treats to get them used to the sensation bit by bit; also, start young. The sooner the dog gets a feel for the vertiginous sensation of going between the floors of your house, the better they’ll be.