How To React When Your Dog Starts Freaking Out
This is a very, very frequent occurrence in our house. Our dogs are insane.
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We tend to view dogs as simplistic animals who mainly act on instinct. But anyone who truly understands them knows this isn’t true. Each pup has its own personality, likes, dislikes, preferences and fears - just like kids.
Because of this, your pet pooch can sometimes freak out at the slightest sign of trouble. One minute, they seem fine, then the next, they’re acting in all kinds of unusual ways. Every dog is different.
Many of the most common dog fears are rational. For instance, dogs can sometimes get scared if somebody walks towards them in a threatening manner.
However, there are also irrational dog fears, such as fireworks or lightning. Ideally, you want to be able to control both. So what can you do?
Expose Your Pet To Their Fears In A Controlled Setting
Exposing your pet to their fears might seem like a bad idea. But exposure therapy works in much the same way for dogs as it does for humans. The more you show your pet that there’s nothing to worry about, the more likely they are to control their reactions in the future.
Usually, you’ll want to go to a professional dog trainer or specialist for this kind of treatment. Trying to do it yourself could lead to disaster if you’re not sufficiently experienced.
Take Your Pet to the Vet
Sometimes your dog isn’t reacting to something in the environment but rather something that’s happening in their body. For example, canine epilepsy is a common condition that affects a large number of pets. These days, you can go to the vet for seizure treatment for dogs or order it online.
Swaddle Them (Literally)
Another tactic is to swaddle your pet as you might a baby - something that usually helps them to feel more comfortable. The best way to do this is to wrap them in a large blanket to make them feel secure and contained. If fear is the problem, swaddling should eliminate it quickly, giving you a simple tactic you can use if you notice your dog starting to freak out.
Avoid Encouraging Fear
As an owner, you may also be the cause of your dog’s fearful behavior. For instance, if you continually cuddle your dog on your lap when they get scared or give them treats, they could fake being fearful in the future to get more attention.
Ideally, when comforting your dog, remain as calm and neutral as possible. Look for ways to build their confidence naturally, instead of making them dependent on you.
Keep The Noise Down
Whenever your dog starts acting out, you can also try to keep the noise down. Just like people, puppies come into the world with an in-built fear of loud noises. So reducing any clattering or banging sounds in the environment can help considerably.
In our house, we had to literally put a mobile white noise machine (the ones that are actually for a baby's stroller) on the collar of our most anxiety-prone dog. He would bark at every passing sound he heard outside our house (to the point where he started working himself into seizures). Since we couldn't prevent people from talking on the sidewalk as they walked by our house (bummer) we made him his own little cone of silence (or soothing ocean noises) so he didn't have as many "frightening" stimuli.
Get Professional Help
If you are in doubt, you can always take your dog to a professional. Usually, there’s nothing to worry about. But people with lots of experience with dogs can offer helpful advice for how to handle specific situations if you’re struggling. After all, owning a pup should be fun!
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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