Dog Fear


dog fear aggressionGot a fearful dog or fearful puppy?

  • dealing with dog fear aggression?
  • dog has fear of people or fear of dogs? Cat fear?
  • fear of thunder, fear of loud noises or fear of noises in general?
  • fear of socializing?
  • dealing with puppy fear periods, puppy fear stage?
  • need fearful dog training?

We get all those questions and dog problems, and more! Here are a few. Because fear in dogs is very common. Unfortunately fear aggression in dogs is common too. And before you ask, the fearful German Shepherd Dog also is common, yes. Including the fear aggressive dog. Often puppy aggression also is down to fear. While some dog owners already mention the fearful dog or fearful puppy, others report dog problems without realizing that in fact they have a fearful German Shepherd Dog or a fearful puppy. A lot of dog aggression is caused by fear.

Q&AMy Question: I need help with my 1.5 years old German Shepherd. We have socialized him greatly since he was 8 weeks old. We took him to new places and met new people on a daily basis! Around 1 year of age he started to become fear-aggressive on walks and in the house. We have spent a lot of $$ and now need extra help.
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Solution: Probably you have spent the lot of $$ on a local trainer who could see your dog and work with your dog and with yourself, correct? So then he or she had a BIG advantage, and it's sad to hear the trainer couldn't help you (yet it's very typical indeed, we hear this all the time).

However, now with us you make it very hard to help you: your help request lacks detail! This is why we have the detailed Dog Problem Consultation. Avoids info back and forth, and allows us to truly help you - contrary to the trainer you PAID.

For example, what exactly does the dog do "on walks and in the house" that you summarized as "fear-aggressive"? Knowing the exact dog behavior and your behavior and the situations of such behavior is essential to provide you with a real solution! Think: Your trainer can SEE all the detail (s)he needs (and yet didn't make use of), but I can't see that, and you didn't even write it down. :-(

So, for the benefit of others, let's clarify here a bit and make assumptions (BIG assumptions!):

  • dog fear aggressionYou walk your dog on-leash, and when you approach other dogs (or people? or both?) your dog lunges towards them? Only big dogs or any dogs? Only people with motorcycle helmet or umbrella or bright-colored clothes, or what? Or does your dog seem aggressive towards every dog (almost) and every person (almost)?
  • And in the house? Phew, it's even harder to guess(!) the dog's behavior that makes you conclude he is fear-aggressive. Does your dog space out when you come close? Or only certain family members? Only visitors? Or does he snarl and bare his teeth when you seek compliance with a command you gave? How do you seek compliance, what exactly do you do?

You notice now: None of this you spelled out - and there could be so much more, it could be so different what your dog actually is doing, and what you are doing, right? There is so much ambiguity in your help request that it makes me fearful. - But not yet fear-aggressive, no worries. :lol:

So here is some brief general advice to manage fear aggression in dogs - this may or may not help in your particular situation of which you provided no detail. First we need to appreciate the CAUSES of fear aggression.

Causes of Fear Aggression in Dogs

  1. Lack of systematic socialization
  2. Stress, and if only from the experienced Pack conflict
  3. Dog trauma

In this order, and there are no other causes of fear aggression in dogs! This "list" is complete, yes. As traumatized dogs are not that common, you guessed correctly: Almost always dog fear aggression is caused by stress or by lack of systematic socialization - despite what the dog owner believes, which for most dog owners is: "Our dog is very well socialized".

dog fear aggressionOh! I am just realizing, you stated that as well: "We have socialized him greatly since he was 8 weeks old. We took him to new places and met new people on a daily basis!" - That is not systematic dog socialization, no sorry. Systematic socialization I have detailed in the Puppy Development Guide - Puppy 101 (even includes Checklists!), it's equally applicable to adult dogs, in fact much more important there.

That you have a traumatized dog is unlikely, so well you treat him. So I would strongly suggest you review systematic dog socialization for the (assumed) case of lunging towards other dogs or people during dog walks: Start afresh to accustom your dog to other dogs and people at a distance (other side of the road and far away and familiar dogs/people, then closer and same side of the road and strangers, etc). All in here.

There is no doubt that your dog is well accustomed to yourself. So why is he "fear-aggressive in the house"? This is why I love the CAUSE-driven analysis of MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG! Making a list of possible CAUSES first, and then identifying what causes your situation, this is SO HELPFUL - and in fact for dog health it is life-saving!

So if your dog truly is fear-aggressive in the house (you didn't give any detail, it may be something else), then you really have a very stressed dog in the house! Again, you likely will now say: "No way, he has no stress here at all!" - but then I just say: "Study the Periodical I linked for you above, it is mind-blowing once you fully take it in."

The (for experienced dog owners and trainers only) Dog Training Toolkit shows tons of tools you can use to calm down your stressed dog (and it explains why most dog owners and professional dog trainers not even notice that their dog is stressed).

do thisAs a tip, the next time you seek help with a dog behavior problem, I suggest to compile a detailed report first, similar to a dog health or dog care problem. Note down (else details get forgotten):

  • What dog behavior strikes you in a certain situation?
  • What happened immediately before this, and what was the dog doing?
  • How did you react, and why?
  • How did the dog respond to your reaction?

Our list of descriptive dog behavior adjectives will help you to precisely describe behavior. We have made this required reading when you seek a Dog Problem Consultation.

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    I agree, I also love your analytical approach!! Makes it so easy to quickly find a solution to problems! Now I know how to help my Bobo. Thanks again


    This works, great tips, thanks!


    My name is Agnes - My husband and I adopted a Male GSD from a local shelter 5 months ago. His name is Camden - He is a gentle soul. We were told my the shelter that he is approx. 5-6yrs old and was found as a stray and very emaciated. He remained at the shelter for approx. 4 months, and did wonderful with all people including children. However we were warned that he should not be around other dogs or cats.

    Upon bringing him into our family, we immediately went to training on walking, sit. stay (the usual commands) and it was very obvious that he has had some very good training in the past. Within 3 weeks of walking our property perimeter (3 acres) 3x daily - He knew his boundaries, and we were able to remove his leash. We walk with him (ne is never alone, as I'm afraid he will run after rabbits, or other critters) When he gets ahead of us we say "wait" and he stops for us to catch up. In short he is very well trained.

    My questions is: My neighbor has an extremely friendly dog (pit bull) and my GSD has seen him several times while we walk, and I have seen no aggressive behavior from either dog (both are in-leashed) from a distance. I tell him ""Its Okay - Stay" and he does. What would be the best and safest way to introduce him to other dogs . . . . I've been told that having him on a leash, will make him fearful if I tug back, at the sign of aggression, yet I'm hesitant to just let them get too close, as it would be extremely dangerous for me personally if something goes wrong.

    BTW - He does not bark AT ALL. (Yet, we heard him bark while visiting the shelter) Loves belly rubs, but is not affectionate (never licks, jumps up, or snuggles). Cowers during thunder and lightning storms and passes the house for hiding spots.


      You did well, adopting him, and immediately training him.
      Do not heed the shelter's warning though. Think: Had your parents kept you away from all human beings, guess how you would be like today?
      Can you imagine?

      "However we were warned that he should not be around other dogs or cats." - I hear that often, and it is insane advice. Likely, in the shelter your dog aggressively barked at other dogs and cats, and the shelter staff concluded: "This dog ain't no good with other dogs or cats".

      Foolish. Obviously, this dog was scared, likely traumatized, when entering the shelter. What the dog would have needed right there and then, is systematic socialization, with other dogs and cats, in addition to with people. Feeling looked after, and protected.

      That's what you need to offer the dog now. Ample, systematic socialization with other animals (as apparently with people he has no issues). Going through all of these brief notes will also be helpful: Rescue Dog.

      As for "What would be the best and safest way to introduce him to other dogs?", the ideal is:
      1) on neither one's assumed territory (which may be larger than the owner's property)
      2) after both dogs have been heavily exercised
      3) neither dog is thirsty, and there are no other stress factors
      4) both owners are present, and have a leash at hand
      5) at least one of the owners (you) feels well prepared for every situation, incl. How to stop a dog fight.

      Like you said, that's "the best and safest way", the ideal. I wouldn't wait for the ideal though. Also it sounds like that, in your case, you have no control over 1 to 4 anyway. So then focus on 5, be educated and be ready. By genetics a pitbull is special, see the link. If his owner can't be present, I'd make sure I have observed the dog's behavior for a while, to determine his general character and his particular mood before meeting my dog.


    I meant both dogs are "Off Leash"


    My Charolette which is 10 months old is aggressive toward men... she is good at the dog park but when it comes to my home she is afraid and aggressive especially toward my son. I don't understand how she is playful toward him at the dog park but barks and bares her teeth at home. I need help and want to do it the right way.

    Thank you


    My shepherd just turned 1 today and since we got him the biggest problem is stairs. Tried everything but just won't do it. But he can do 3 or 4 steps, jump up hills and many obstacles. Any advice? I was told the worst thing is to traumatize him, which I haven't but what do I do?


      Gail, not sure what "he can do 3 or 4 steps" means if he can't go up stairs, but if he can "jump up hills" it suggests it's not fear of heights but fear of either
      - the short steps on certain stairs
      - or an "obstacle" at the top of those stairs
      - or the tunnel effect of a long flight of stairs.

      So, how about testing for all possibilities by taking him to various stairs throughout town/whatever?
      Once you know what's the cause you can address that so much easier.


    Hi. My 10 month female GSD seems fearful of visitors to the house. She barks and growls (no teeth). She settles quickly and will lie next to the person/taking treats but every so often she will look at person or walk past them and growl. If they left room and re-enter she would bark and growl again. Is she fearful or territorial? Any suggestions? I've tried sending her to her bed but it doesn't help the growling


      Ali, this is a behavior very typical of GSDs, and it usually starts around that age or a bit earlier. Whether it's fearful or territorial growling/barking can only be seen from her behavior (and I haven't seen that), but really is secondary here. You want it stopped, that's it.

      Which of the above listed causes have you determined is it?
      The final green box above also gives crucial help to identify the right solution for your dog's individual situation. Have you noted down the "constituents" of one growling/barking situation? What are they?

      This will help to devise the right solution that works specifically for your case.
      Other than that (ie more generally), have you performed our renowned Feeding Routine to manage the dog's behavior? How often? What's the outcome?

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