Scaredy Pups: The Fear of Random Objects Tuesday 19 June 2018 @ 12:13
Phobias are irrational, so it can be hard to understand why your dog is afraid of something and even harder to work out how to help with that fear. Over the last couple of months, we’ve discussed the most common fears a dog might experience, and how to deal with those fears. Our most recent phobia was the fear of cars, which can make it pretty difficult to go anywhere and do anything with your pup.
Some of the other common doggy fears you may wish to learn more about might include…
We’ve finally come to the end of our fear list, but there are still other fears out there! If your dog has a fear we haven’t covered and you’d like more information on that phobia, don’t hesitate to get in touch. While we wait to hear from you, let’s talk about the last item on our list: dogs who are afraid of specific objects.
Is your dog afraid of your vacuum cleaner? Do they run and hide or bark constantly when you bring out the halloween pumpkins?
Do they get jumpy when you try to move the furniture in your house? These are telltale signs that your pooch has a phobia of certain items.
Why Is My Dog Afraid?
As we’ve already discussed, a dog can develop a phobia for any number of different reasons. With fears of specific objects, it often comes down to the dog being afraid of something they aren’t familiar with.
A key example of this comes when you decorate for holidays, whether that’s Halloween, Christmas or someone’s birthday.
Suddenly, there are flashing lights, balloons, shiny objects and sometimes even foliage. Your dog clearly doesn’t know what day of the year it is, or why you’re putting a random tree inside your house.
Dogs can sometimes develop phobias as a result of negative experiences. For example, if you accidentally put a chair down on your dog’s paw or close their tail in the door, this can easily lead to a fear of these objects.
It’s also pretty common for a dog to be afraid of objects that make strange and unpredictable noises. For example, some teddy bears have mechanisms inside them that cause them to play a song or make a laughing noise. This can be surprising and terrifying to a dog who as just about become accustomed to teddy bears as inanimate, silent objects. Your dog can develop a fear of this toy as a result, and that fear may even pass onto other stuffed toys. This can also be the reason for a dog’s fear of hair dryers, washing machines and other loud household appliances.
Between birth and adolescence, many dogs experience two different “fear periods”. These periods are temporary, but can result in permanent phobias if dealt with incorrectly. At these points, a dog will often begin exhibiting a fear of objects, people or situations they were previously comfortable with. For example, they may suddenly start acting shy around new people, or begin to growl at the sofa.
The first fear period is the “fear impact period” where your puppy is beginning to learn about the difference between dangerous and safe things, and this generally takes place between the ages of eight and twelve weeks. At this time, your dog is trying to make sense of the weird world that surrounds them, so every person and item needs to be re-evaluated.
Your dog’s experiences, whether they’re negative or positive, will stay with them for the rest of their life. A good way to help them is to provide as many positive social experiences as you can. Some important ideas include…
- Avoiding scary or new environments;
- Using positive reinforcement to reward and congratulate your pup;
- Remembering to keep calm as much as possible, because your pup will mirror your reactions and your anxiety will quickly become their anxiety;
- Encouraging planned socialisation with people and other dogs.
Desensitizing Your Dog to Objects of Fear
The kindest and simplest way to help your dog through their fear of random objects is to help them see the item as a good thing instead of a scary one. This is called desensitizing. This is the same technique used to help dogs afraid of loud noises.
Take, for example, a dog who is afraid of fast food wrappers.
- Begin by gathering a very generous amount of small, tasty treats that are easy for your dog to swallow. Things like chunks of cheese, hotdogs, cold cuts or leftover roast are perfect. Just make sure that whatever you choose, it isn’t likely to upset your dog’s tummy.
- Avoid weight issues by counting the treats you use as part of your dog’s meal. They won’t mind!
- Begin by placing the fast food wrapper far enough away that your dog is not yet reacting to it.
- Begin throwing treats in the direction of the wrapper, so that they create a trail your dog will slowly follow closer to the item. If your dog starts getting nervous, slow your progress by throwing the treats at shorter intervals.
- Try to give your dog a training “break” every now and then. For instance, if you began 20 feet from the wrapper and have managed to work up to 10 feet from the wrapper, toss a few treats at the 15-foot mark to let your dog relax. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking these breaks can really speed up the process.
- Only carry out this training for about 5 minutes at a time, making sure to always finish in high spirits. You can do this once per day, or even several times each day. Just make sure your dog always has at least 5 minutes to rest between each session.
- Once your dog is happy to take treats right next to the wrapper, try moving it a little bit with your foot while dropping lots of treats at once.