Last Updated on April 3, 2023 by Pets Feed
Dogs are social animals, so much so that their role in the home today has changed compared to some time ago. From a figure of well-being, useful for hunting or herd management, the dog has become a real member of the family, protected and loved. However, social interactions with humans can sometimes be a significant source of stress.
What can we do if our dog is afraid of people? Let’s find out together!
Why is the dog afraid of humans?
The causes of our animal’s discomfort can be multiple. Especially in the case of abandoned and adopted animals from a shelter, the reason for fear towards other humans may be due to past trauma, which has resulted in loss of trust in people.
At the root of the problem, however, there might simply be a lack of ability to relate to characters outside of the family unit.
As with many other habits, it is essential that the dog has the opportunity to gain experience from a puppy, learning to establish a healthy relationship with everyone, humans and other animals.
During the first weeks of life (period defined as “sensitive”) it is crucial that the dog learns not only from other members of its own species, but also from people of different sex, ethnicity and age, in order to keep a large amount of information. When this does not happen, the puppy may over time demonstrate insecurity in interactions with our species or adopt selective attitudes towards lesser-known categories of people.
Poor teaching methods can be another cause of stress. If we tend to punish the dog and raise our voices when we want to teach a lesson, we risk having the opposite effect, fueling the animal’s tension and fear.
The behavior of people themselves, their physique and their approach to the dog also play an important role. Faced with a tall and massive individual with a booming voice and more abrupt demeanor, it is easy for an animal already intimidated by humans to feel even more threatened.
Fear can usually be identified by various signals: if in the presence of other people the dog is shivering, moaning, trying to avoid the situation in various ways, or adopting an aggressive attitude by baring its teeth or growling, it is likely that ‘he is very scared. . .
In these cases, forcing him to have a relationship with what terrifies him is wrong. Instead, let’s try to understand his discomfort and alleviate it with patience and affection.
How to behave in front of a frightened dog?
The dog is an animal with a highly developed instinct, which bases its experiences above all on the perception of external stimuli. The first step in helping her overcome a fear in a high stress situation is to stay calm.
Although our first impulse is to show concern for our animal, it is very important to keep these unpleasant sensations under control, so that they are not perceived by the animal as confirmation of the threat.
We also avoid pulling on its side – except in dangerous situations – so as not to increase its tension.
When faced with an attitude of suffering, the dog is never forced to interact with the source of the fear, so as not to risk aggravating an already traumatic experience. Rather, give the animal the opportunity to feel safe with us, without however encouraging an overly defensive or aggressive attitude. This, while effective in keeping strangers at bay, could be viewed by the dog as typical behavior, but counterproductive to the animal’s welfare.
To lower the level of stress, the method of positive reinforcement comes to our rescue. Its versatility means that it is also very useful in these cases, to allow our four-legged friend to associate a pleasant stimulus with a negative experience.
Whether on a walk or when guests arrive home, we can reduce the state of discomfort by getting the animal’s attention and rewarding it with one, preferably different from those normally used for. meals.
In this way, over time, we will create a correlation between the presence of a stranger and the pleasant sensation. In addition to snacks, which have a greater impact on the animal (especially if our furry dog is greedy), we can obtain equally satisfactory results with one or more scrunchies. However, remember to always maintain a calm and positive attitude whenever we use reinforcement and let the dog decide for himself whether he should stay with us or whether he should take refuge or somewhere quiet. of the House.
In addition to these small methods, which will gradually lead to an increasingly less traumatic experience for the dog, it is important to combine constant exercise, considering getting help from a trainer. An expert can be of great support, especially with past trauma. While socialization is essential in the first few months of life, it is possible to address animal insecurities even in adulthood with patience and dedication.
Under the guidance of a professional and always in safe conditions, we ensure that our four-legged friend can socialize with one person at a time in an environment in which he feels protected, always using the method of l positive association. We also expect the patience of our hosts, who will have to put the dog at ease by kneeling down to appear less threatening and to be sniffed.
If the fear turns into a real phobia which also risks endangering the health of the furry dog, we ask our trusted veterinarian for an opinion to jointly assess the possibility of resorting to targeted therapy.
It is only when the animal has shown greater familiarity with people that one can think of exposing it to more complex interactions, always respecting its needs and discomfort.