Can Dogs Feel Terror?

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Introduction

There are times in our lives when we all feel terror for one reason or another. Sometimes, it's a superficial terror because we are watching something scary and frightening on TV. At other times it can be real terror in the pit of the stomach because of a situation that is actually occurring around us. Anyone that has ever experienced true terror will know just how much it can affect their lives, not just at that particular moment but in some cases for years to come. This is an emotion that you do not easily forget. However, can dogs also feel terror in the way that we do?

Signs Your Dog Feels Terror

Well, from research that has been conducted over the years, there is no doubt that dogs can feel terror. They may not feel it for the same reasons – for example, your pooch won’t sit there cowering because you have a scary movie on the television screen. However, dogs do experience real fear and terror that arises because of things that are happening either around them or to them. We see this all the time in dogs that have been abused. They are often terrified of people or certain types of people, such as men or women, depending on what happened to them.

When a dog feels terror, you will notice a variety of different signs that will provide an indicator of what your dog is feeling. Some of the signs that suggest a dog is feeling fear and terror include cowering, whimpering, vomiting, sitting in a corner, hiding and refusing to come out, the tail tucked firmly between the legs and yelping. Some dogs will also go into an aggressive mode when they feel threatened or terrified. This could include snarling and snapping, exposed teeth, raised hackles, and biting. This is not necessarily because the dog is naturally aggressive, but because it goes into defensive mode as a result of the terror it feels. 

Body Language

You can also see signs of terror in dogs from the body language they use when in that particular situation. Some of the body language signs that can indicate your dog is terrified include shaking, tail tucking, pacing, panting, and ears that are flattened. When a dog feels terror, its reactions and its body language can often vary based on the nature of the dog and the mode that it goes into when it feels this way. Some dogs will naturally go into attack mode, which will be reflected in their body language. Others will automatically go into fear mode, which again will show in the way they behave and their body language. 

  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Dropped Ears
  • Tail tucking

Other Signs

There are other signs that may indicate that your dog is feeling terror. This includes signs such as drooling, refusal to go into a particular area or near a particular person, panting, dilated pupils, and incontinence.

 

  • Incontinence
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting

History of Canine Emotions

Over the years, we have learned from extensive research that dogs can feel fear and terror. We have also realized that this fear and terror comes from very real situations and incidents. Dogs have excellent senses and instincts so when they feel terror it is generally for a very good reason.

When dogs feel terror, research has shown that they will act in one of two ways. Some dogs that feel true terror will become extremely nervous and frightened so they will do things such as cower, hide, and even vomit or urinate because of the sheer terror they feel. Other dogs, although still terrified, will take a different stance in that they will become defensive and aggressive. These dogs may bite, attack, snarl, and become vicious. This is not because this is their normal temperament but because of the terror they feel. Like humans, dogs all have different personalities and natures. Their reactions to terror can vary based on this just as it does with humans that feel terrified. 

What Causes Dogs to Feel Terror?

So, how do we know that dogs can feel terror? Well, experts and dog owners have seen with their own eyes how dogs change their behavior, actions, and body language when in certain situations. In fact, many of us have seen images of dogs that are terrified on TV and in the media. The terror that dogs feel is very real compared to some of the situations that make us feel terrified (e.g. insects or movies). With dogs, terror is usually preceded by abuse, threats, and other harmful actions against them. 

What is Your Dog Terrified Of?

If you notice that your dog shows signs of experiencing terror in certain situations or around certain people, this is something that you have to take very seriously. Dogs do not fake being terrified – if they are fearful and scared there is generally a good reason why. It may not be an obvious reason either. For example, your dog may show signs of terror every time a man comes into your home. However, this does not mean that particular man has done anything to your dog. It may be that in the past your dog was abused by someone that had a similar tone and body language to your visitor, and this may be what is making your dog terrified.

You also need to remember that dogs have an innate ability to sense good and bad in people. So, even though your pooch may be meeting a person for the first time, if they show signs of terror this may be because they pick up a bad vibe from the person. Even in situations that are not directly linked to your dog, such as two people fighting and arguing in the house, your dog may experience fear or terror. This could be due to abuse suffered in the past or simply because your dog is of a nervous disposition. Either way, situations such as these can have a profound effect on some dogs and can leave them feeling terrified.

It is important to try and remove anything from their environment that causes your dog to feel this way. Of course, there is not much you can do about removing the source of terror if your dog is terrified of a family member for no apparent reason. However, in situations such as these, you need to work with your dog and help it to overcome the fear that may be linked to its past rather than its current situation. 

Taking The Terror Seriously

  • Where possible, remove the cause from the dog's environment
  • Look into what may be causing this emotion
  • Monitor its reactions
  • Find out what is causing your dog to feel terrified