The Look of Fear in Dogs

    Dogs vary in their basic approach to the big
    wide world: Some have a “bring it on” attitude
    and others are fearful. A dog’s body language
    will change as he becomes fearful. What does a
    fearful dog look like?
    • His ears will be flat if they normally stand up
    or will lay back against his head if they are
    normally floppy.
    • Her tail will be down low or tucked under her
    body, between her legs.
    • He will hold his head down; he may try to
    avoid eye contact.
    • Her body will be tense and will sometimes
    • He may urinate or defecate as you approach.
    • She may try to hide or run away.
    • He may exhibit excessive drooling, panting or
    • She may offer threats to try to scare you away:
    She may become motionless or stiff, show her
    teeth or lunge at you.
    A dog with healthy behavior has the following
    • She is friendly with adults and at least tolerant
    of children.
    • He can be handled by you and other people,
    such as the veterinarian, the groomer or a
    stranger giving a casual hello.
    • She is friendly with other dogs and plays well
    with them while young (of course, she may
    play less as she gets older).
    • He relinquishes control of food and other objects, such as toys, without any guarding behavior, like growling.
    • She is affectionate without being too needy.
    She can be left alone for reasonable periods of
    time without any dire consequences.
    It’s possible to work with fearful dogs so they
    can become adoptable. When working with a
    fearful dog, be extra gentle and patient. Some
    may always be shy around new people and new
    places, but with patience and understanding, a
    good home can be found.
    Use caution while getting to know fearful dogs.
    If you have not worked with dogs before, you
    may need help to start building trust and a respectful relationship with a fearful dog. Fearful
    and shy dogs benefit from being around behaviorally healthy dogs, who serve as role models.
    The fearful dogs watch and learn.
    Training is also helpful to fearful and shy dogs,
    since learning basic cues and agility builds their
    confidence. Simply going out in public places
    to socialize will help fearful dogs to become
    more confident and gregarious. You might invite
    your friends (who are strangers to the dog) to
    offer small food treats to teach the dog about the
    pleasant rewards of interacting with people


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