Signs You Own a Fearful Dog

A fearful dog startled, scared dog,pdell, morguefile.com
A fearful dog startled, scared dog,pdell, morguefile.com

An attentive dog expert will be able to read a dog's emotions like a book, courtesy of the many cues offered by a dog's body language. From the most evident signs of fear, to its most subtle signs, canines are capable of transmitting their sensation of fear quite effectively. Indeed, dogs are quite good in picking up signs of fear from other dogs in such an effective manner that the sensation of fear is almost''tangible'' at animal hospitals.  Following are some evident, and not so evident, signs of fear in dogs.

How to Tell if a Dog is Scared

Because each dogs is different, it is important to consider that every dog will have its typical manifestation of fear. One dog may wag its tail and growl, while another dog may visibly shake. Dog owners therefore should learn exactly what body signs their dogs chooses to use to manifest its fear.

Submissive Posture

Fearful dogs will manifest their fear by assuming a typical submissive posture. This is characterized by a tail tucked in and kept low amid the legs, a head carried low and ears kept flat against the head. A submissive dog will also avert eye contact. Cowering is the typical lowering of the head and body, a fearful dog may do in response to being pet. This may suggest the dog has been hit in the past and is hand shy.

Yawning

Tense dogs often will yawn quite frequently. This is done as an attempt to calm themselves down. Often dogs that find themselves in a new situation will indeed resort to yawning in order to release tension. This particular form of yawning has little to do with being tired or sleepy.

Panting

A fearful dog, tends to be tense and more anxious than a normal dog, therefore he or she will be more likely to pant easily even without being exercised. Panting in a nervous dog is the equivalent of human ''hyperventilation'' which takes place when humans are in a very frightening situation and breath very fast or feel like they ''without breath''.

Shaking

Some dogs will visibly shake when they are anxious. This is often seen in animal hospitals when dogs are about to see the vet. The shaking is often most visible in the dog's back legs, but some small dogs may visibly shake their whole body. Shaking in small dogs however may be attributed to ''toy breed hypoglycemia'' a condition of low blood sugar.

Growling

While growling is often perceived as an aggressive behavior, in reality, fearful dogs make up a great percentage of growlers. Indeed, fear growling is an effective way for insecure dogs to keep other people and dogs they do not trust away. Because 99% of the time, their growling makes the object of their fear back off, the need to growl is enforced more and more.

Submissive Urination

When a fearful dog is scolded, it often will dribble a few drops of urine. This is called ''submissive urination'' and usually takes place in the most sensitive dogs when reprimanded. Some of these dogs are simply very sensible and soft, while others may have a history of having been abused.

Anal Gland Emission

Some very frightened dogs may release some anal gland fluids when very frightened. Other dogs pick up this smell and often tense up as well. For this reason, often dogs become tense at animal hospitals, they pick up on this scent which is released when a pet is very frightened and in danger. The anal glands are found under the dog's tail right around the dog's rectum, exactly at the four o' clock and eight o' clock position.

Fear Biting

Sometimes, fearful dogs feel over reactive since they tend to see threats everywhere. This may lead to fearful biting, especially when the dog founds himself with no escape and cornered. The bite of a fearful dog is often swift, with a bite and leave approach, and it sometimes takes place when a person has turned its back to the dog.


As seen, a fearful dog resorts to a variety of ways to manifest its discomfort. It is up to the owner therefore to recognize signs of fear and work up on building confidence in their fearful dog. There are many venues to accomplish this through desensitization programs, obedience training and even fun agility classes. Severe cases however, may require the intervention of a professional dog behaviorist.

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Comments 6 comments

Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Wow, now that is what I call an excellent well written article. It is great, thank you for sharing this with us. I truly learned a lot about my pet. Off the the vet I go.


ocbill profile image

ocbill 6 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

yes, I have seen these man times in fearful dog. such a shame when you want to approach it to pet and it growls, cowers, stars to pee ro shakes.


bonny2010 profile image

bonny2010 6 years ago from outback queensland

great article,like your writing - tell me can a dog be born with a certain fear. I have a young dog got her as a wee pup...my daughter got her brother...they came from a good family no signs of cruelty, this I know as my granddaughter owns the mother, both dogs will not allow you to put a collar or leash on them...they go crazy.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 6 years ago from USA Author

Yes, just like people dogs may be born to be more insecure than others. In a litter of puppies there are also bolder pups and more insecure ones. The insecure ones are generally the submissive ones that do not make good pack leaders. However,dogs can be helped become less fearful. Try to keep the leash and collar out for all day, so they get used to seeing it. Keep it near them all day, in plain view. Let them sleep near them and eat near them. Try to put the collar on right before feeding them and let them eat with the collar on. Give treats every time you slip the collar on. Once they accept it try to keep the collar on all day under your supervision. It's all about desensitizing them to the collar and letting them know great things happen when you slip the collar on. Praise like crazy, give them their favorite treats, a collar and leash is great!

Do they like to go on walks? Or are they fearful on walks? Could be they do not like leash and collar because they associate it with walking. So make sure they see the collar often and have it on even when not going on walks. Could be the fear of collar and leash started in one and the other dog perceived the fear and became fearful of it as well. Fearful dogs gain lots of confidence with clicker training and agility training. Best wishes!


DOGS 101 profile image

DOGS 101 5 years ago from Planet Earth

What a well thought out article. I like reading articles with lists like that. I write a lot of my hubs in that style. Keep writing that way so I can keep reading and learning.


Eternal Evolution profile image

Eternal Evolution 5 years ago from kentucky

Nice hub with some useful info. I have a nervous/fearful husky. We are working with him and he is making progress but fearfulness isn't something fixed overnight. The signs you listed for fearful dogs are great for those who aren't failure with dog body language.

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