4 min read


Can Dogs Feel Frightened?



4 min read


Can Dogs Feel Frightened?


Dogs seem to be quite emotional animals. They certainly respond to the things around them in ways that are unique to their personalities. When we are excited, they are excited. There are some dogs they get along with more than others, and they react to their social surroundings based on their own personality. What does this mean? Does it mean that dogs have different moods? Can dogs feel emotions? 

When dogs are in unpredictable situations with other dogs, they sometimes appear to be on edge depending on the attitude of other dogs. Does this mean that dogs feel frightened? Can they feel frightened? 


Signs That a Dog is Feeling Frightened

Dogs do not feel emotions in the same ways that humans do, but they do feel emotions. Dogs feel the basic human emotions of happiness, sadness, disgust, and fear. They can even feel anxious. 

There are some telltale signs that you will notice when a dog is feeling frightened. Depending on the social situation and your dog's breed and personality, they will react in their own unique ways to various situations. 

For example, when a dog is frightened because they are feeling threatened, they may get protective and aggressive. You'll be able to tell if this is going on by your dog's body language and sounds. If they show their teeth, start growling, or take an alert stance, this means that your dog is prepared for a dangerous situation. 

There are other specific signs that indicate when a dog is frightened and anxious. You'll notice their tail tucked between their legs, ears flattened, and the avoidance of eye contact. If they are looking for protection, your dog may run behind you in order to avoid danger and let you take control of the situation. 

Your dog is also noticeably anxious and nervous when they start pacing, panting heavily, or cringing. Some dogs will also try to hide behind objects or under the couch if they want to avoid the perceived threat. 

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice when your dog is frightened:

  • Cowering
  • Panting
  • Ears Drop
  • Pacing
  • Dropped Ears
  • Tail Tucking

Other Signs

These are some other signs you might notice when your dog is frightened:

  • Raised Hair On The Back Of The Neck
  • Avoiding Eye Contact
  • Hiding
  • Running From Something

History of Dogs Feeling Fearful


Dogs have not always been as full of emotion as they are today. In fact, thousands of years ago, the dogs we know and love today were actually wolves. The friendship between man and wolf was born out of a mutual need for each other. The humans gave the wolves their leftover food which led to the two species growing closer and closer. 

Over time, wolves grew to be more affectionate towards humans. The wolves helped humans hunt in return for food and shelter. The bond between human and wolves began. These wolves began evolving into a new type of animal - an animal that can feel emotions, sense the emotions of their humans and respond to social situations in specific and appropriate ways. 

Dogs have the ability to respond to human emotions. They can even mirror the emotions of their humans. You may notice that your dog gets happy when you're happy. Well, some dogs respond to our fear with their own fear. Dogs are able to respond to these emotions as a result of thousands of years of evolution. 

The better dogs were at reading the emotions of the humans around them, the more likely they were to reproduce. Dogs passed on their ability to bond on an emotional level to future generations. 

The Science of Dogs' Emotions


The dogs we know and love today have developed specific pieces of their brains over many years. They learn and grow and respond to us based on their genes and all of the experiences that teach them how to behave in the various situations they encounter.

Dogs are able to feel the same basic emotions that humans can feel. They can feel emotions such as love, fear, anger, and joy. Dogs develop to the level of a two-and-a-half-year-old. They continue to learn new things throughout their lives, but most of their development takes place in the first few years of their lives.

Training a Dog Not to Be Frightened


Some dogs are easily scared and need extra attention to overcome the fears they may have. Depending on the things that trigger a dog to feel fearful or anxious, there are different ways to help train them to not be afraid anymore. 

Some dogs are anxious when they are meeting new people. If your dog gets nervous about people coming over to your house, there are some simple ways to help get your dog to warm up to new people. A great way to do this is to start by introducing your dog to a visitor outside of the house. This gives the introduction a neutral environment where your dog won't feel threatened or territorial. Allow your dog to smell the visitor, and instruct them to be calm and friendly and not too pushy. Let your dog get comfortable and then welcome your friend into your house. You can give your dog treats when they respond well. 

Remaining calm and consistent are the keys to helping your dog calm down in fear-inducing situations. Some situations do not require fear, and you can gradually introduce your dog to these situations. Slow exposure with lots of praise and reassurance will help your dog ease into being comfortable in otherwise uncomfortable situations. 

Repetition and consistency will ensure success for your dog. You can do weekly activities such as weekly play dates and visits to the dog park. If your dog is a big barker, you can slowly introduce them to the delivery person to show your dog that they are not a threat. This will help desensitize your dog and help them feel calm and collected in new situations. 

Provide positive praise, fun activities, and treats to your dog to reinforce the positive behavior. Though it can be frustrating when dogs bark or act standoffish, it is important not to yell or punish your dog. Ignoring negative behavior and rewarding positive behavior is a better way to help your dog learn. 

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Safety Tips for Fearful Dogs:

  1. Stay calm and collected.
  2. Create a neutral setting for meeting new people.
  3. Take things slow and do not force your dog into situations.

By a Corgi lover Simone DeAngelis

Published: 03/21/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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