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Common Behavior Problems

Fears of People, Places, and Noises

Dogs can be frightened or phobic of people, places, noises and things. Common noise phobias are in reaction to thunder, fireworks, hot air balloons, trash trucks or construction equipment. We’ve also seen dogs who are afraid of outside air conditioning compressors, and various indoor appliances.

If your dog is afraid of people, the most common reason is because he isn’t well socialized. Poorly socialized dogs didn’t have the chance to have pleasant experiences with all different types of people during puppy hood. A lack of socialization can also contribute to noise phobias and generalized fears of anything new and different.

Your dog needn’t have had a traumatic experience with something to become frightened of it. Just because your dog is afraid of certain people, don’t jump to the conclusion that he was abused before you got him. Poor socialization is more likely the cause.

Some dogs are more prone to fearful behavior than others. Although fearful behaviors aren’t inherited, a dog’s genetic makeup can result in a tendency, or lower threshold, for fear related problems.

Fearful behaviors require counter conditioning and desensitization programs, which expose your dog to softer, quieter, or more tolerable versions of whatever he is afraid of. These events are paired with something overwhelmingly enjoyable for your dog. Usually, this is an irresistible tidbit, or perhaps a toy your dog is fanatic about.

It’s vital that the behavior modification techniques be used correctly, and precisely, otherwise they either won’t work or can make the problem worse. We strongly encourage a consultation to be sure you have the help you need for these problems.

For noise phobias such as fireworks, gunshots, etc., the sounds are difficult to re-create with the necessary varying degrees of intensity. You may need to use a specially made audio CD of the specific sound. Click here to see what sounds are available, and to view ordering information. Not all dogs react to a recording in the same way they do the “real noise”, but in many cases these recordings can be extremely helpful.

Most dogs who are afraid of people can learn to be friendlier, but some may never be social butterflies who are at ease with everyone. Some fearful dogs are also defensive, meaning they are threatening or aggressive to familiar or unfamiliar people as well. If your dog has snapped or bitten you must seek help from a certified behaviorist immediately.

To better understand noise phobias and fearful behavior, download our Behavior Wellness Report on Noise Phobias (Coming Soon!) and our free Behavior Wellness Report on Fears and Phobias (Coming Soon!). We also recommend The Cautious Canine by Dr. Patricia McConnell.

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