In most situations, dogs are confident creatures with nothing to worry about than the constant urge to play. Dogs have it easy. This is especially true if you're prone to pampering your pup. So, when sudden fear washes over your dog, it can be a cause for concern.
Truth is, dogs are more complex than what people give them credit for. They can experience emotions just like humans do. Pups of any age can get scared or nervous.
Unfortunately, they're not capable of expressing those fears in a rational way.
While fear and nervousness are to be expected when they're in an unfamiliar situation or environment, what happens if those emotions creep up at home?
Home is supposed to be your dog's comfortable space. It's where they can be confident and stress-free. Chances are your dog spends way more time at home than you do. So, what gives?
Identifying the Signs of Fear
Before we get into the causes of sudden fear at home, let's talk about how dogs show these emotions. As we mentioned earlier, dogs don't have the ability to just come right out and tell you what's wrong. The key to understanding the issue is to read their body language.
Fear can manifest itself in many different ways. Oftentimes, the signs of fear are things that dogs normally do anyway. But, the difference lies in how often those behaviors are happening.
For example, if your dog suddenly starts spending all of its time hiding under a couch when they normally roam free, that's a big red flag. It shows that something is causing so much fear that your dog feels the need to protect itself.
Sometimes, dogs will even flee from certain parts of your home or bark at whatever is causing them stress.
Other times, the symptoms are a bit more subdued. Your pup might pace around in circles, drool excessively, or even start shaking. In extreme cases, uncontrollable body issues can start happening. It's not uncommon for dogs to accidentally defecate or urinate in sudden times of fear.
If your pup starts veering from their normal habits, use that as a sign, too. Dogs can lose their appetite, start excessively grooming themselves, or even bite their fur off.
Every dog is different, so you need to be able to identify unfamiliar behaviors for your pup. Most likely, the signs of fear will be painfully obvious when they occur. No one knows your dog better than you, so keep an eye on their behavior.
Knowing how to spot these signs can help you be proactive and provide your dog with some must-needed assistance.
12 Common Reasons Why Dogs Suddenly Get Scared at Home
For dogs, fear is somewhat of a learned emotion. Dogs naturally react to their surroundings. All it takes is one negative experience for dogs to become fearful. It's like training. But instead of positive reinforcement, a bad event can create a negative memory.
#1. Loud and Sudden Noises
Has your dog ever started barking in fear during a thunderstorm or fireworks show? This is pretty common. Those loud noises can be torture for dogs.
It's important to remember that canines have very sensitive hearing. Not only that, but they can hear in frequencies that are beyond the scope of human hearing.
While the loud banging from a thunderstorm might not seem like an issue to us, it's a confusing spectacle for dogs. The best way that you can help your dog overcome these fears is to provide positive reinforcement.
Comfort them any time that those loud noises occur. It doesn't just have to be an outside noise that causes issues. Inside your home, there are plenty of alarming sounds.
Smoke and burglar alarms often emit high-pitched tones that dogs are very sensitive to. Pups with perky ears are especially susceptible to the effects of these noises. Your pup could have been around when an alarm in your home went off.
Say, for example, that you accidentally burnt some toast in your kitchen. This caused the fire alarm to ring, which was probably a traumatic experience for your pup. Now, they may avoid the kitchen because they're scared that the sound will happen again.
Other examples of this include noise from a washing machine, the roaring of a vacuum cleaner, and the whirring of a blender.
#2. Unpleasant Smells
Just like loud noises, awful smells can create some bad memories for your pup. I know what you're thinking. Dogs love to smell things that humans can't stand! They love to dig in the trash, smell feces outside, and roll around in the muck.
While they have a pretty high tolerance to bad smells, some odors are just too overbearing for a dog's liking. Let's go back to the example of the kitchen. When you burn toast, the smoke produces a strong smell that dogs hate.
They may also dislike strong spicy smells. Now, every time they go near the kitchen, those smells will be the only thing they can think about.
Another common issue for dogs is the smell of bathrooms. The cleaners we use to sanitize bathrooms are far too strong for your dog. Bleach, ammonia, and even alcohol can cause their noises to feel uncomfortable.
It's best to keep your pup away from the bathroom during cleaning time. Not only is it unpleasant, but the fumes can be toxic.
#3. Bad Experiences
Most owners aren't around all day to keep an eye on their dogs. When you're away, your pup is left to their own devices and might explore your home. As they explored, they could have experienced something negative.
They could have bumped into a piece of furniture, which resulted in an object falling off and hitting them. Obviously, the pain from that object falling is more than enough to cause some negative emotions.
If you live in a two-story home, your dog could have also taken a tumble while trying to navigate the stairs.
Whatever the case may be, that negative experience is going to have an effect on your pup.
The problem is that you're not around to see the start of this fear. This makes it nearly impossible to diagnose the problem and find a solution. We recommend investing in some security cameras or pet cameras. You'll be able to go back and see what exactly happened to your dog. Then, it's all about addressing the issue.
Take a look through your home and secure any wobbling furniture. You can also invest in a pet gate to keep your dog off the stairs while you're away.
#4. Uncomfortable Situations
No dog likes to feel uncomfortable. However, sometimes those situations are unavoidable. One of the most common uncomfortable situations that your dog has to muster the courage for is bath time.
Bathing your dog in your bathroom has its perks. You can easily contain your pup and control the situation. Plus, you can adjust the temperature to keep your dog as comfortable as possible.
However, there's no amount of preparation you can do to get your dog to like bath time. Unless you have desensitized your pup at an early age, they'll always dislike it. That disdain for baths often causes dogs to get nervous around the bathroom. Most won't even go in there at all unless forced to.
There are some things you can do to ease their fears. Like we said earlier, early training with positive reinforcements is the best method. Professional trainers can assist you as well if you're trying to help an adult dog.
#5. Unfamiliar Pests
Have you ever seen any bugs or rodents in your home? If so, your dog has likely seen them too. Usually, pests will only excite dogs. Canines have a strong prey drive and will often chase any unwanted visitors out of their territory.
With that said, things can go south if your pup had an unpleasant interaction with one of those pests. For example, if they were bitten by a bug, they could be scared of the issue happening again.
The issue with pests is that they often pop up at inopportune moments. If your dog has seen the pests at various locations throughout your home, they could develop some anxiety. Think of it this way:
If you were trapped in a locked room with a bug you can't see, you'd probably be a bit scared, too. Essentially, that's what your dog is feeling.
To resolve this problem, you'll need to get rid of the pest and show your dog that there's nothing to be scared of. Positive reinforcement and comfort go a long way.
When dogs are young, many owners isolate them in a kennel or separate room before they get free reign of the house. This is meant to prevent separation anxiety and avoid accidents.
Once you let your dog start exploring the house on their own, you might find that they avoid the room you kept them in. This is perfectly normal. It's a natural response. They're enjoying the freedom they have and don't want to be left isolated again.
You can ease your dog into this freedom by creating a sense of open space. Leave doors open so that your dog never feels like they're alone even if they're locked up in a crate.
#7. Illness or Physical Pain
Sometimes, fear is simply a byproduct of health issues your dog is experiencing. Physical pain and illness can cause dogs to get very anxious at home.
A dog's natural response is to hide health problems. So, they'll go to great lengths to avoid you. This includes hiding out and exhibiting some grouchy behavior.
Give your dog a good examination. Check their nails, teeth, and belly. If the problem persists, visit a vet. An internal problem may be causing stomach pain or sensitivity.
* Usually, once the health issue is taken care of, your dog will start feeling confident again.
As dogs get older, their responses to certain stimuli changes. Beyond all of the obvious signs, dogs often exhibit brief moments of fear throughout the day. This is very common after a nap.
Your dog might take a second to come out of their slumber. During those first few seconds of awakeness, they could be confused or disoriented.
This leads to instant fear. It's pretty common for older dogs to bark or hide after waking because they're confused about their surroundings. Luckily, those moments of fear and anxiety are usually quite short. Once they get their bearings, they should be good to go.
#9. Sudden Fear of You
While it can be alarming to hear, sometimes dogs become fearful of their owner. Despite all of the love they have for you, it's possible for them to be scared of you. The good news is that these types of issues are relatively easy to fix.
Dogs are very forgiving. As long as you make the necessary changes, you can get your pup's fear to subside with adoration and training.
#10. Accidental Injuries
Have you ever accidentally stepped on your dog? You're not alone. Dogs have a knack of getting in the way and sleeping in potentially hazardous spots.
That accidental injury could be making your dog scared of you. The best way to overcome this problem is to simply apologize.
You don't have to coddle them. In fact, it's best to remain calm and not talk to them in a panicked voice.
Simply show them that the accident was not on purpose. Provide some positive reinforcement to let them know that they did nothing wrong.
#11. Bad Training Methods
Training is not always easy. While many owners try their best to stick to positive reinforcement, some will lose their cool every once in a while and use punishment for training.
Hitting and yelling at your dog is not doing them any favors. All it's doing is showing your dog that they should be scared of you. Anytime you lift your hand or get frustrated, they'll brace for whatever is about to come.
You can rebuild that trust by switching over to positive techniques. Remain calm and work with a professional trainer to learn how to work with your dog's unique behavioral challenges.
#12. Traumatic History
Finally, dogs could be scared of you and other humans because of a traumatic past. Rescue dogs and those raised in puppy mills are known to exhibit fearful behavior. It takes time, but it's possible to reprogram your dog.
You need to be gentle and provide as much positivity into their lives as humanly possible. The goal is to show them that you are not bad. Over time, the fearfulness will subside and your bond with your dog will strengthen.
This is just a small collection of reasons why dogs can suddenly get scared of things in your home. Dogs aren't as different from humans as people think. They experience many of the same emotions and can be affected by everything in their environment.
The best thing you can do is identify the problem and rectify the situation. Be patient and gentle with your dog to help them overcome their fears. Before you know it, your pup will go back to their confident self in no time.
Also Read: Why do Dogs Hate Vacuums?