Help Your Dog Overcome Their Fears

Ian despite being abandoned is a confident and well adjusted dog

Us humans have all kinds of personalities don’t we?  It is exactly the same for dogs!  Some of us are outgoing and open, others shy and reserved.   We can be silly and serious, emotional, creative, adventurous, energetic, lazy, happy, sad and everything in between.  Many of us are born with certain qualities or personality types but as we grow our experiences influence us, help shape our personalities and the way we present ourselves to the world.  Most humans have at least a couple of fears, things they are scared of and these can be from a very young age, slowly begin to demonstrate themselves or suddenly creep up on us later on in life.

Dogs are exactly the same. They can be affectionate or independent, approachable or shy, playful and energetic or even timid and fearful.  Dogs are not robots, they have feelings, their experiences, or lack of, will impact how they react in situations, how they respond to others, events, objects, sounds, visuals and so on.

Fear is common in all animals. While it is possible a fearful dog has suffered abuse or trauma at a young age, most of the time fear results from genetic predisposition or a lack of experience with what frightens them.

Fear in Dogs and the Contributing Factors

Introduce your dog to different walks and different smells and sounds

How your dog acts in one place, is not necessarily how your dog might act in other places. At home, to outside in the garden, to a busy cafe, the vets, the beach etc, all have differing levels of stimulus and distractions.  Just like humans some dogs are able to cope better in certain situations than others.

Dogs are not robots, neither are humans.  We all are different and we can’t expecting a dog to act like a robot, with no skills to fall back on, in every situation is unrealistic. Very rarely are there dogs born that are just absolutely easy to do everything with or to take anywhere and without any fears.

In this guide we are going to firstly look at contributing factors to fear in dogs, from their genetics and breed, their early years to their experiences of socialisation.  We will then look at some of the common fears dogs have and how you can help your dog cope with these and overcome them where possible.

Breed and Nervous System

Some breeds are more prone to fear than others

Without a doubt, far too many dogs suffer abuse, but not all dogs who you may assume to have been abused have been treated badly. Some are fearful because they were inadequately socialised (we will explore this in detail later in this guide), or have a genetic tendency to be fearful, or both. As often as not, a history of abuse is not a factor.

Different dog breeds do display different types of anxiety-related behaviours.  Researchers from a University in Helsinki, Finland recently carried out a study to establish whether some dog breeds are more prone to anxiety and fear than others. The researchers stated that much in accordance with what previous studies have suggested Lagotto Romagnolos, Wheaten terriers, and mixed breed dogs had the highest prevalence of noise sensitivity, while miniature schnauzers and Staffordshire bull terriers were less sensitive to noises.

Spanish water dogs, Shetland sheepdogs, and mixed breed dogs were the canines in which fearfulness was most common. More specifically, fear of surfaces and fear of heights were most prevalent in rough collie and mixed breed dogs.

Large breeds and small breeds also differed in terms of anxiety-like behaviours. For example, among the miniature schnauzers in this study, 10.6% showed aggression toward strangers, compared with only 0.4% of Labrador retrievers.

(Full study available at

If a dog has been bred with a poor nervous system, it is always going to have a poor nervous system and limitations on it’s abilities. There will be situations they may not be able to make good decisions in. This is not a training issue, this is how much the dog can cope with. The situations they are put in should reflect what they can cope with, instead of trying to force them into things they just can’t handle because it suits what you as the owner want.

Lack of Socialisation

Early socialisation is so important for the well being of your dog

Imagine if you have a child but never ever took them outside, or never exposed them to anything within the home.  How would your child react when from one day to the next you took them outside, turned on the TV, put them in the car?  They would of course be absolutely overwhelmed, scared, perhaps confused and unable to process all the stimulus around them.

In the exact same way if you don’t introduce your dog to the world inside your home as well as outside and continue to do so throughout their lives, you are setting them up to fail and most likely setting them up for a life of being fearful.  Without proper socialisation, dogs are likely to become anxious and fearful of anything unfamiliar. This could give rise to serious behavioural problems, such as aggression or nervous behaviour.

Besides temperament and nerve, good dogs are made by what they are taught. They need to learn from easy levels to harder levels, not just thrown in the deep end and expected to swim.   If you are having the same issues in a particular place over and over, ask yourself “Have I taught my dog the skills required to navigate this situation?” If not, then you know where you need to spend more attention with your training. Make your life and dog’s life easier through education and repetition because the problems won’t fix themselves.

To Consider when introducing your dog to new situations and experiences

It is important to take into consideration a range of things when you begin to socialise your dog and expose them to all kinds of different situations, from within the home to outside:

Who is with the dog? You, your partner, your child or children? Just you and the dog? Do you have another dog? Where is your attention focussed?

What is the level of arousal when you leave your garden? Is your dog protective of you? Overexcited? Are your children scootering around, running ahead, squealing etc.

Are there crowds of people, barking dogs running around, bikes, sports teams, cars, birds?

What have you done to prepare your dog for the situation you’ve just dragged them into?

Expecting a dog to act like a robot, with no skills to fall back on, in every situation is unrealistic. Very rarely are there dogs born that are just absolutely easy to do everything with or to take anywhere.

Rosie meets ducks for the first time


Early socialisation is so important for the well being of your dog.  Dogs go through their developmental stages much more quickly than humans do, attaining their full emotional range by the time they are 4 to 6 months old.

Be prepared that the puppy you adopt is going to display some, if not a lot of the traits of the breeds it is bred from. While it can sometimes be hard to determine exactly what mixed breeds contain, there are some overtly obvious breeds being presented. It is advisable to learn about breed traits & tendencies before you adopt a dog so that if they surface you know you can handle it.  They are not broken, they are who they are & are most likely not going to be the easy pet dog you are expecting.

Puppy socialisation is so important for the welfare of your puppy and their development.  Once they have had their vaccines and it is safe to venture out into the big wide world we would absolutely recommend taking your puppy out.

It’s very important that your puppy interacts with lots of new people and animals, as well as takes part in varied experiences in their early stages so they can work out the right way to behave and feel comfortable in differerent situations.

If your puppy isn’t correctly socialised, they can develop phobias and behavioural problems that can be very hard to fix down the track. You should encourage their curiosity and respond positively when they tackle a new experience. If your puppy responds with fear to a new person or animal, it’s important that you don’t make a big deal of it or remove them from the situation briskly. This will only reinforce negativity and lay the foundations for a fearful response in future. If you see your puppy relax and respond warmly to a new experience, reward them with praise.

We would encourage you to expose your puppy to the following:

People & animals; Children of all ages; People with hats, glasses, facial hair, walking sticks; People on motorbikes, bicycles, scooters; Places (countryside and towns); Parks and beaches; Veterinary clinics; Other people’s homes; Grooming and Bath time; Car journeys; Lead training; Loud noises – vacuums, fireworks, traffic, hair dryer, microwave, music, large crowds; Rain and thunderstorms; Water; Wearing a harness to name a few.

Adult dogs

Black Nero was abandoned and used to suffer from separation anxiety

It is always advisable to start socialising your dog from a young age but of course there are going to be situations where a dog reaches adulthood without the opportunities to socialise.  If you adopt an older dog, you may have to start from scratch when it comes to socialising them.

If your dog wasn’t socialised as a puppy this doesn’t mean they are going to be more fearful or have to be relegated to a life without dog friends or free play with others.

Below you’ll find several tips on how to socialise adult dogs:

Walk your dog daily and introduce them to other dogs.  Dog walks are great opportunities for your dog to see and possibly meet other dogs and people, as well as practice proper behaviour when out and about.

Your are bound to run into more social situations when you are out on a walk than when you are at home so walks are also wonderful for socialising dogs because they will have less pent up energy due to the exercise and should be calmer and more submissive.

Remember not to pull back on the lead or shout at your dog if they bark or otherwise act up, because this increases their excitement level, makes the experience negative, and makes them associate that feeling with other dogs.I

Safely expose your dog to different social activities.  Don’t rush things, but if you can introduce your dog to one new activity a week, it will go a long way towards helping them socialise and remain calm and well behaved.

For example, instead of just taking your unsocialised dog into a dog park and hoping for the best, you can expose them slowly by walking them around the outside of the fence and letting them see the dogs play and have fun.

Common Fears in Dogs

Having looked at some of the contributing factors to fear in dogs, below are some of the common fears dogs have with examples of how you can help your dog cope with these and overcome them where possible.


Tigre really is very scared of the vets

It is very common for dogs to be scared of going to the vets.  When you think about it, this is actually normal isn’t it?  How many of us enjoy going to the doctors or the dentist?

This fear may be show by your dog  panting, drooling, growling, cowering, snapping or biting. Aggressive behaviours toward strangers in a veterinary situation should not be mislabeled dominance or status related aggression. Most dogs that are aggressive at the vets are exhibiting fear related aggression.

A visit to the vets is an overwhelming situation for some dogs and their owners. The goal is to start at a level of challenge the dog can handle and then progress to more challenging situations while teaching your dog to be calm and relaxed. It is also important for the owner to feel calm, relaxed and in control. Any anxiety the owner feels is transmitted to the dog. If the owner feels anxious and unsure, then the process should be slowed down even if the dog is doing well.

Learn to observe your dog closely for subtle signs of anxiety like yawning, licking, raising a front paw or looking away and be sure you understand your dog’s communication.


It may be the sight of the veterinarian in a white coat, the smell of disinfectant used at the vets, the fact that it is in proximity with other animals in an anxious or excited state, or the memory of receiving a treatment such as an injection. The object of systematic desensitisation is to identify the separate elements of the problem, which can then be presented to the animal separately so that your dog can be gradually trained to relax in their presence.

If for example the vet wears a white coat, it is useful to start by exposing your dog to people in white coats in the home. The stimulus has to be presented to the animal at a level high enough to arouse interest without causing the problem behaviour, in this case, fear. Members of the family can wear a white coat and handle the dog, play with them, etc., and then try placing them on a table or worktop. Rewards can be used as soon as the animal starts to relax.

Next, it may be possible to repeat the situation away from the home. Local trainers are often prepared to help in situations such as these. The process has interest in the stimulus and shows no signs of anxiety. Another component is then introduced (e.g., the particular disinfectant associated with the clinic).

The next component is then introduced, for example the presence of a number of other animals, and so on. It is important that the response is positive and can be reliably repeated before you move to the next stage. It is also important to occasionally present lower level cues to which you know your dog will respond reliably; in other words, give your dog a refresher.

Visit the vet for fun

Maya at the vets

Many dogs only see the vet for exams or when they’re already feeling sick, so it doesn’t take long for them to develop a negative view of the vets. But what if you took your dog to the vet just for fun? Ask your vet if you can take your dog in just to say hi. Ask any available staff to stroke your dog and feed a few delicious treats. Sit in the lobby for a few minutes while you feed treats and let your dog pair the food with the sounds and smells of the clinic.

It’s also important that car rides don’t predict a trip to the vet, otherwise your dog’s stress will begin as soon as you enter the car. Make sure you take your dog out to other places such as the dog park or even just for a drive. Then, when you are heading to the vet, it will seem like just another fun outing.

Handling Exercises

No matter how old your dog, your first step is to train them to accept restraint and examination which will greatly reduce their anxiety when they get to the vet.

Start with simple handling exercises. For a dog who is comfortable with touch, add massage into your daily interactions, preferably when your dog is tired. Include the paws, ears, mouth, belly, and tail to simulate a vet’s exam. Include lots of praise and treats so your dog learns to associate handling with rewards. In time you can become a bit more invasive, for example squeezing the paws, and even add some gentle restraint to help prepare your dog for the real thing.

Storms – Thunder and Lightening, Fireworks and other Loud Noises

Fireworks are a common fear for dogs

It is in fact common for dogs to be frightened of thunder, fireworks and other loud noises.  They have no idea what these noises are and they can be really terrifying even for a human who does know!  Your dog can develop a fear of loud noises even when they haven’t been exposed to any traumatic experiences relating to these.

The most common behaviour problems associated with fear of loud noises are destruction and escaping. When your dog becomes frightened of course they are going to try and reduce their fear.  To do this they may try and escape to get further away from the loud noise of the storm of fireworks. If, by escaping your garden or going into a certain room or area of the house and being destructive makes your dog feel less afraid then the escape is reinforced because it successfully lessens their fear.  Unfortunately, escape and or destructive behaviour can be a problem for you and could also result in physical injury to your dog.

Additionally things that are present in the environment whenever your dog hears the startling noise can, from their viewpoint, become associated with the frightening sound. Over a period of time, they may become afraid of other things in the environment that they associate with the noise that frightens them. For example, dogs that are afraid of thunder may later become afraid of the wind, dark clouds and flashes of light that often precede the sound of thunder. Dogs that are afraid of fireworks may become afraid to go in the garden as this is where they may usually hear the noise and see the bright flashing lights in the sky.

Create A Safe Place

Try to create a safe place for your dog to go to when they hear the noises that frightens them. But remember, this must be a safe location from their perspective, not yours. Notice where they goes, or tries to go, when they are frightened, and if at all possible, give them access to that place.

If they are trying to get under your bed, give them access to your bedroom. You can also create a safe space for your dark that is dark, small and shielded from the frightening sound as much as possible.  There are weighted blankets and thunder shirts that can be effective in helping calm your dog and making them feel safe and protected.

Turn the TV on or put on the radio to help block out the sound.  Draw your curtains or blinds to block out any visuals from the storms or fireworks.

Feed your dog in that location and associate other good things happening there. They must be able to come and go from this location freely. Confining them in the safe space when they don’t want to be there will only cause more problems.

The safe place approach may work with some dogs, but not all. Some dogs are motivated to move and be active when frightened and hiding won’t help them feel less fearful.

Distract Your Dog

Giving your dog a treat filled toy can be a good distraction

This method works best when your dog is just beginning to get anxious. Encourage them to engage in any activity that captures their attention and distracts them from behaving fearfully. Immediately try to interest them in doing something that they really enjoys. Get out the tennis ball and play fetch or practice some commands that they know. Give them a lot of praise and treats for paying attention to the game or the commands. As the storm or the noise builds, you may not be able to keep their attention on the activity, but it might delay the start of the fearful behaviour for longer and longer each time you do it. If you can’t keep your dogs attention and they begin acting afraid, stop the process. If you continue, you may inadvertently reinforce the fearful behaviour.

Behaviour Modification

Behaviour modification techniques are often successful in reducing fears and phobias. The appropriate techniques are called “counter­conditioning” and “desensitisation.” This means to condition or teach your dog to respond in non fearful ways to sounds and other stimuli that previously frightened them This must be done very gradually. Begin by exposing your dog to an intensity level of noise that doesn’t frighten them and pair it with something pleasant, like a treat or a fun game.

Gradually increase the volume as you continue to offer your dog something pleasant. Through this process, your dog will slowly start to associate good things with the sound that previously scared them.


Make a recording with fireworks noises on it.

Play the recording at such a low volume that your dog doesn’t respond fearfully. While the recording is playing, feed your dog dinner, give them a treat or play their favourite game.
Very gradually play the recording a little louder whilst continuing to give them treats or playing a super fun game.
Continue increasing the volume through many sessions over a period of several weeks or months. If at any time while the tape is playing, your dog displays fearful behaviour, stop immediately.

Begin your next session at a lower volume, one that doesn’t produce anxiety and proceed more slowly.

If these techniques aren’t used correctly, they won’t be successful and can even make the problem worse.

What Not To Do

Attempting to reassure your dog when they are afraid may reinforce their fearful behaviour. If you pet, soothe or give treats to them whilst they are behaving in a fearful manner may be interpreted by your dog as a reward for behaving this way.   Instead, try to behave normally, as if you don’t notice their fearfulness.

Don’t put your dog in a crate.  Putting your dog in a crate to prevent them from being destructive during a thunderstorm is not recommended. The likelihood is they will still be afraid when in the crate and are likely to injure themselves.

Don’t punish your dog for being afraid. Punishment will only make your dog more fearful.

Don’t try to force your dog to experience or be close to the sound that frightens them.


Tom and Gill happily jump in and out of the car

Does your dog only travel in the car when you take them to the vets? For many dogs a trip to the vets is not an enjoyable one and may associate a car journey with the unpleasant experience.  Imagine if the only time we used our cars was to go the dentist or the doctors.  Our association with a car wouldn’t be positive one.

It is really, really important to practice with your dog. The more you practice, the more your dog will start to relax and associate the car with positive experiences.  Each time your practice you can increase the amount of time you go out in the car.  It is vital not to push your dog to the point where they begin to show signs of stress.   Ensure the car trips are to somewhere enjoyable.  They can be short and often but not to somewhere unpleasant such as the vet until your dog has spent many, many, many enjoyable car journeys with you.

Check out our guide Help Your Dog Overcome Car Anxiety

A particular gender, human appearance

There are several theories on why some dogs are fearful of men

A dog’s fear of the male sex isn’t rare.  The most common scenario that leads people to conclude that a dog has been abused is the dog who is fine with women but scared of men. In these cases, while it is possible that a man abused the dog, the fact that a dog is afraid of men doesn’t prove the theory. Typically, dogs who have fearful tendencies are more scared of men than of women. Dogs who are fearful have a natural tendency to be more afraid of men. It isn’t certain why this is, but it is likely that men’s larger size, broader shoulders, deeper voices and facial hair make them more intimidating.

“There are several explanations,” explains Ellen M. Lindell, VMD, a board certified veterinary behaviourist. “Many puppies are raised by women, rather than by men, so puppies grow up feeling more connected to women.”

The canine nose an also be “blamed”. Dogs possess a keen sense of smell and can detect the difference in male and female scents caused by hormones and personal care products. If raised by a female breeder, puppies have known her scent since birth. Men, not so much.

Fearful dogs are sensitive to human behaviours and appearances and may react negatively to some of them. These include a larger body, a loud, booming tone of voice, facial hair, or a hat shading the face. Dogs can interpret abrupt movements, hovering over them for petting as confusing and intimidating.

Often these traits and actions are not always separated along gender lines. “If a dog was never exposed to people who look or act this way as a puppy, they can feel threatened and will tend to shy away from them,” says Dr. Lindell.  Spending time early in life with only one person rather than several limits a dog’s comfort level as well.

Changing the Story

Whatever the reason your dog acts uncomfortably nervous around anyone with a large and too noisy a presence, you can take steps to ease their anxiety. You’ll need patience, planning, and training, but the results will pay off.

A dog that has a fear of people may never develop an outgoing, happy-go-lucky personality when it comes to meeting men, but they can learn to relax more in their presence.

Begin by identifying details that trigger your dog’s fearful response. This will help you narrow the type of exposure and training your dog will need to reduce their fright.

Observe how your dog reacts when they sees a large person wearing a hat or sporting a beard or mustache. Notice if they shy away from someone who leans over them, rushes towards them, or has a loud, boisterous personality.

Self-Esteem Setups

Slowly build your dog’s confidence by setting up opportunities for them to approach the type of people they are afraid of.  Ask a series of friends to wear a hat or a fake beard and meet you separately at different locations. Let your dog decide how close they want to approach them.

To help eliminate your dog’s underlying reason for feeling afraid of men, psychologists recommend following a desensitizing and counterconditioning plan. This structured method involves patient training over several weeks or months and should avoid re triggering the fear. Here is where behaviourist, or a professional dog trainer can assist.

Start by showing or exposing your dog to a large, noisy, or otherwise frightening man standing still at a distance. Make sure your dog notices him, but doesn’t feel scared. Give your dog a high value treat they really love.

The idea is for your dog to associate the fearful person with receiving something good. When the person is out of sight, stop giving the treat. Repeat this process at least 10 times.

Over several days or weeks, gradually repeat this training. Shorten your distance from where the man is standing, but ask him not to look directly at, and not to reach toward your dog. Give your dog several tasty treats and then move away again. This creates a positive reaction.

Practice, Treat, Repeat

Repeat this process multiple times and follow it immediately with delicious treats. Avoid frightening your dog. If they show any fear, move further away from the man and next time do not approach as close.

Vary the location and the time of day of these sessions until your dog is comfortable with the person standing closer. Your dog does not have to meet or be touched by the person. They might not be ready for that and it is not necessary for people on walks to touch your dog.

Never push your dog beyond their comfort zone. Forcing your dog to accept petting from someone they are afraid of will only strengthen their fear.

Throughout your training, remain patient and positive. Your dog will pick up on your energy and emotions and reflect your feelings.

Going up and down stairs

Stairs can seem daunting for a dog if they have never used them before

At some point in your dog’s life, they will have to contend with going up and down the stairs, whether at home or out and about on walks. The experience can be new and frightening to a puppy or an older dog who is unfamiliar with it, but the good news is that you can train a scared dog to go up and down the stairs.

It’s worth understanding why your dog is frightened in the first place. According to Andrea Arden, professional dog trainer and Animal Planet’s pet expert, your dog could be afraid of the stairs for any number of the following reasons: It’s a novel experience and your puppy isn’t sure about the results, your dog may have had a previous experience with stairs that was traumatic or created a negative impression, or the surface of the stairs may be too slippery for your dog or make sounds that startle them (like metal stairs or wooden ones with loose boards).

An underlying medical condition could also be the cause of their trepidation—hip dysplasia could make going up and down the stairs painful. If the reason your dog is afraid is due to a medical condition, your veterinarian can help you find ways to accommodate your pet for navigating the stairs such as installing a pet lift in addition to any treatments for their symptoms.

The good news is your dog can overcome their anxiety. “Assuming the issue is not based on a medical condition, you can help a dog overcome this fear by focusing on counterconditioning and desensitisation,” says Arden. “Hang out near the bottom of the stairs with your dog and feed them part of their meals, give them tasty treats, and play with them with their toys.”

Your dog will begin to associate their favourite things with the bottom of the stairs. Once they are comfortable and at ease with being at the bottom of the stairs, move up to the second or third step on the staircase.

Reward them and then help them to turn around slowly and step off.  This way, they are getting your attention as well as treats when around the stairs, and at the same time learning how to feel comfortable going down them one step at a time starting from the bottom..

Keep repeating this all the way up the stairs until your dog is going up and down the stairs without fear. Instead, your dog now sees the stairs as an achievable feat that comes with rewards like your attention and food.

It is always advisable to keep these training sessions short but sweet, only lasting about three to five minutes at a time, but you can practice this exercise several times a day.

Make it a natural part of your day so that your dog is also able to get into the routine. Not only will it help your dog overcome this fear of the stairs, you will also have additional bonding time with your  companion.


Gill and Tom love cooling down in water

So you adopt a dog and have visions of going to the beach, throwing a ball for your dog that they will retrieve from the sea. Or you live near a lake and dream of being able to take your dog there to swim.  It, therefore will be disappointing when you are all excited and can’t wait to see your dog bound into the water only to see them recoil in horror, show fear and back away in fear.

It may not be the reaction you were hoping for but it is one that can often be changed. and with some help, dogs can overcome their fear of water.

Dogs may develop a fear of water due to various reasons. Some, because of their genetic predisposition while others may have had a previous traumatic experience that has made them fearful. Some dogs may never be overly enthusiastic at swimming or playing fetch in water but there are going to be times when it is necessary for your dog to be exposed to water.

The most important thing about training your dog to not be afraid of water is to understand that it must be done gradually.

It’s important to understand the level of your dog’s fear of water. Are they fearful of all water or does it start with a bath and go up from there? There are different techniques for different levels of fear.


If your dog is terrified of baths, there are a few things you can do to help them overcome this fear.

Whether you use a sink, bath tub or paddling pool outside, install non slip bath mats to provide your dog’s paws with some traction. This truly made all the difference as your dog will not be slipping around all over the place.

Try coaxing your dog in with a treat or toy. You may also get in with your to show them it isn’t as scary as they thinks it is. Keep the water shallow, no higher than your dogs knees.

Try smearing a little bit of peanut butter along the wall of the bath tub or use a bath toy to keep your dogs mind off the actual bath.

Keep your voice soothing and provide constant praise.

Keep the process of introducing your dog to a bath simple and relaxed.  Initially just put their paws into the water and then take them straight back out again.  You can always give your dog a treat after doing this.

Repeat this a few times over a number of days.  Do not rush the process from just putting your dog’s paws in water to the next stage of their knees, shoulders and so.  The moment your dog tries to struggle and get out, take your dog out.

Rivers, lakes, the sea

Not all dogs enjoy swimming in the sea

Start small. Take your dog to a river or the beach and let them test the waters. Let your dog dip their nose in, take a drink, or even walk in if they are brave enough. Repetition will help with this greatly.

As you progress, make sure it is on calm weather days. The water should be relatively calm and the surroundings should be quiet. Anything to help calm the anxiety.

Once your dog has explored on their own, attach a lead and try having your dog follow you into the water. If they won’t follow, coax them in with their favourite treats or toy. Take it slow. If they really don’t want to follow you in, don’t get frustrated or forceful. This will only make the anxiety worse. It may take a few tries.

If you have a smaller breed, get them a life jacket. It may seem silly, but if it fits properly, it will be nice and snug which provides some comfort. Also there are life jackets with handles on the back that are easy to hold and can give your dog extra reassurance and support.

You may need a lot of patience and to accept that your dog may simply never be a dog who bounds in and out of the sea and enjoys swimming.

Household Objects

Jean was very intrigued by the washing machine when he first went to his new home

Some dogs develop a fear of a particular object: the vacuum cleaner, a washing machine, the television.  Very often this type of fear is not a big problem as many objects can simply be moved out of sight. In certain cases, however, it can be problematic. For instance, if your dog turns into a trembling, anxiety stricken mess every time you need to vacuum the carpet. In this case, you may need to slowly introduce your dog to objects they are afraid of in a positive, happy manner.

Vacuum cleaners are a household object that is very common for dogs to be fearful of.  They are extremely loud to humans so it only makes sense that they are frightening to dogs. The movement of a vacuum also exacerbates the situation. And then there’s the way we use them, we run them around the floor at a rapid pace, zigging in, out, and around the comfort zones of our dogs.

If your dog develops a fear, the best way to help them is to show them that the object or circumstance is not inherently dangerous. Desensitising can be effective but it is a long process. It involves inserting that object of fear in their everyday life in such an unobtrusive way that it becomes a normal part of their routine and surroundings. Another way of desensitising your dog is to constantly reinforce that the object cannot hurt them. Vacuums are a major source of fear for most dogs. Keep the vacuum in the near vicinity of your dog. Don’t turn it on; just move it around your dog. After your dog becomes used to the vacuum’s presence, then turn it on. Do not move the vacuum, just leave it on for a couple of seconds, give your dog a treat, then turn it off.

The aim is for your dog to associate the vacuum with something positive.  Repeat the turning on and off process a few times until your dog is comfortable with the noise.  The next step is to move the vacuum around.  Again keep this short, give your dog a treat and then turn the vacuum off.

With plenty of practice, plenty of positive reinforcement, the fear of this particular object will lessen.

Fear Of Being Left Alone

Twix was recently adopted from Benafim Dog Shelter. At 4 years old he was rescued from the streets, having been shot and has never loved in home.  Twix’s adopters are currently working through the desensitisation process with Twix who suffers from severe separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety in dogs is a condition that can cause a huge amount of distress for both dogs and their owners. It is a behaviour that occurs when the dog is separated from their owner and in many cases this is because they are feeling severely distressed.

Separation anxiety in dogs can range from mild to severe; When looking for help and advice it can feel overwhelming and confusing.  Our guide on separation anxiety incorporates as much information and detail as possible in an easy to understand and straight forward manner which is designed to help you and your dog overcome this distressing condition.

Within the guide we look at the differences of separation anxieties, the signs and symptoms, the potential causes and ways to manage the dogs behaviour and of course yours.   We know how overwhelming separation anxiety can often feel for the dog owner.  Not able to leave the room or house without feeling a level of guilt, sadness and distress knowing the dog you are leaving will be suffering.


Helping your dog overcome their fears requires patience. No dog can stay scared, nervous, frightened, or be anxious forever. Eventually, every dog will calm down and when they do, that is when you reward them. In doing so, you are teaching your dog that calming down is the correct behaviour and this builds confidence for your dog. NEVER nourish a fearful behaviour.  Only reward a behaviuor or action that helps your dog get over that unbalanced state of mind of fear.

We hope this guide will help you understand that fear can be overcome, that your dog needs your support, your time, training, socialisation and will provide you an understanding of their fear and help you and your dog build a calmer, healthier and happier life.