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DOGS - TRAINING

Fear in dogs
Published 2010/12/20

Dogs express justified fear in many situations.

Fear in reaction to a minor stimulus may manifest as yawning, shifting of the eyes from left to right, licking of the nose, shaking, etc. These signs are a normal response to confusion.

More serious fear-related behaviours, such as fight or flight, are only normal responses in dogs when they believe that their life is in danger. Dogs will exhibit the proper behaviour if they can objectively assess the situation and its gravity. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. To a dog, an approaching child could mean pleasure or encourage flight. A visitor could trigger excitement or a bite.

There are many factors that influence how a dog will react to such stimuli. Studies have shown that there may be a genetic predisposition to fear. A dog’s environment in his early years is also a significant factor. In 1985, Hart & Hart concluded that a protein deficiency in the mother’s milk could have an impact on the development of a nursing puppy’s nervous system, creating a more nervous and excitable personality. In the first four months of life, dogs are like sponges that absorb everything. A lack of socialization and physical or emotional trauma during this critical time will impact their future reactions.

A dog’s judgement will be affected by erroneous beliefs about his environment, leading to excessive fear-based reactions, and his anxiety levels will be affected by his owner’s energy.

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