Dog Fear

Dog Fear
dog fear aggression

Got a fearful dog or fearful puppy?

  • 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?
  • noticing dog fear aggression?
  • 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. If that is your case, also see Dog Fear Aggression.

Unnoticed by most GSD owners, dog fear or dog anxiety is very common among German Shepherd Dogs too.

The prime cause of fear in dogs is the Pack conflict experienced by dogs! Because this Pack conflict causes permanent stress for the dog. Permanent stress weakens the nervous system so much that it ultimately results in a generally fearful dog (which may then even turn into dog aggression). Therefore I would suggest you consider and address the Pack conflict first.

Related, but not always occurring concurrently, is Separation Anxiety in dogs. Naturally Separation Anxiety often is thought to be "impossible with my dog!", since the reason for such anxiety is that you are away. ;-)

Like other moods, dog fear or dog anxiety can, and should, be addressed via several senses:

  • sight: Initially avoiding objects and/or situations that you have identified to visually fear the dog, AND/OR focusing the dog's attention onto calming objects/sights.

  • smell: What a dog smells has significant impact on the dog's mood too. And so using calming essential oils like lavender oil f can help enormously to treat dog anxiety. To learn more about the benefits of using the right essential oils see this book f.

  • touch: Dog massage is known to not only help with physical health issues but also with mental health issues, with moods, both in people and in dogs. One of these may suit your needs: Canine Massage Reference Manual f, Complete Dog Massage Manual f, or the video course Dog Massage Secrets.

  • hearing: In our noisy world it should be no surprise that many dogs suffer immensely from general noise levels in your environment as well as specific noises (and indeed, not just thunder or fireworks). Interestingly, it has been found that even dogs that seem not to suffer from noise become significantly calmer when calming noises are played in the background (including when you are away, thus in situations of Separation Anxiety). The best or most comprehensive compilation of calming noises for dogs is the book and CD Through a Dog's Ear f.

  • thermoception: Adjusting the temperature if indicated. For example a dog that feels hot obviously feels stressed, and that stress may turn into anxiety.

  • vibrissaception: For example a draft at the dog's crate place f will permanently stimulate the dog's vibrissae (the hairs around the mouth etc), even while the dog is lying still and trying to stay calm. Hence why a dog may experience stress when subjected to a draft.

  • nociception: Addressing any causes of pain if indicated. Presumably most pain in dogs originates in the muscular system or in the skeletal system, thus they have to do with the dog's mobility. The top mobility remedy is Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM f. While these can (and should) be given daily, administering dog pain killers f must remain an exception because they do not address the cause!

If after you identify the cause of your dog's fear you address the dog's anxiety via several senses, you have a much better success rate.

The worst one could do when dealing with dog fear or dog anxiety is to resort to methods of Obedience Training, because you cannot discipline a dog to have less fear. Instead, your behavior should consistently signal the dog that fear is unnecessary: you have everything under control.

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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 11 Site Comments, ZERO SPAM Add one


    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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