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10 Signs Your dog Is Fearful: How to Recognize and Address Fear in Your Canine Companion.

Updated: Apr 10

a fearful golden retriever peaking around a stone wall.
Fearful dog peaking around brick corner wall.

Bringing home a new puppy or new dog is an exciting and joyful experience, but it's essential to remember that puppies, like humans, can experience fear and anxiety. Recognizing signs of fear in your puppy is crucial for their well-being and your relationship with them. In this blog, we'll explore ten common signs that indicate your puppy is fearful and provide tips on how to help them overcome their anxieties.

  1. Trembling or Shivering: One of the most apparent signs of fear in puppies is trembling or shivering. When faced with something that scares them, puppies may physically shake as a response to their heightened stress levels. Pay attention to this behavior, as it's a clear indicator of fear.

  2. Cowering or Hiding: Puppies who are fearful may seek refuge by cowering or hiding. They may try to make themselves as small as possible or find a secluded spot to escape from the source of their fear. If your puppy consistently hides or avoids certain situations, it's a sign of fear.

  3. Tail Tucking: A tucked tail is a classic sign of fear in dogs. If your puppy's tail is pulled tightly between their legs, it's a sign that they are feeling anxious or threatened. This posture is an instinctive way for dogs to protect themselves.

  4. Excessive Panting or Drooling: Fear can elevate a puppy's stress levels, leading to excessive panting or drooling. If your puppy is drooling excessively when faced with a particular situation, it's a sign that they are feeling overwhelmed.

  5. Ears Pinned Back: Watch your puppy's ears when they encounter something they fear. Fearful puppies often pin their ears back against their head as a way to shield themselves from perceived threats.

  6. Whining or Yowling: Puppies may vocalize their fear through whining or yowling. If your puppy exhibits this behaviour in response to specific situations, it's a sign that they are uncomfortable or scared.

  7. Avoidance Behavior: Fearful puppies may avoid eye contact, turning their head away from the object or person that scares them. This avoidance behaviour is their way of trying to make the perceived threat go away.

  8. Excessive Pacing: Some puppies respond to fear by pacing back and forth. If your puppy is restless and constantly on the move, it could be a sign that they are anxious or fearful.

  9. Urination or Defecation: Fear can sometimes lead to involuntary urination or defecation in puppies. If your puppy has accidents when they are frightened, it's essential to be patient and understanding.

  10. Aggressive Responses: Fear can also trigger aggression in puppies as a defence mechanism. If your puppy growls, barks, or snaps when they are scared, it's crucial to address this behaviour with care and training.

Recognizing when your puppy is fearful is the first step in helping them overcome their anxieties. It's essential to approach fear with patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement training techniques. Seek guidance from a professional dog trainer or behaviourist if your puppy's fearfulness is causing significant issues. Remember do not take it personally, it does not mean that you do not have a good dog or that you aren't a good dog owner. With the right support and love, you can help your fearful puppy grow into a confident and happy adult dog. Waiting for things to get better or for them to "grow out of it" won't happen.

Please see our resources on how to read dog body language to help you understand what your dog is telling you.

Reach out to or another dog training professional if you are concerned that your dog may be fearful.

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