Scared Puppy

Where does fear come from?


5 Ways Fear is Developed in Dogs



1 Genetics

Fear is passed from generation to generation through natural selection or poor selective breeding.


2 Stress during pregnancy

A mother who is stressed during pregnancy passes stress hormones to her offspring in utero resulting in fearful adults.


3 Maternal behaviour

Offspring reared by a fearful mother are more fearful during adulthood.


4 Lack of socialisation

Failure to properly socialise during the critical socialisation period results in fear of new things and social shyness.


5 Bad experiences

Fear resulting from painful or scary experiences such as coercive training. The effects of these negative experiences will be hard to reverse.



How do dogs react to fear?



When the dog feels that it can’t do anything, it runs away as fast as it can. Obsessions and repetitive behaviours can also be a response to constant threats of fear as they are an escape from reality or the equivalent of “taking flight” mentally.




A serious threat, accompanied by certain confidence in one’s abilities, often gives rise to threats and fighting. “Fearful aggression” is a term used in behavioural rehabilitation, it means behaviours like threatening, growling, orbiting. The biting could be just a single bite or something more intense, such as a bite that is held, repeated, or accompanied by shaking.



Freezing is used by a dog to inhibit the aggression of another dog. It is ultimately used as an attempt to change the other dog’s behaviour. It is also the behaviour that most commonly precedes a bite.



Dogs can use play as a strategy, joking, inviting, playing “I was pretending”, in an attempt to change the intentions of the other dog from a threat to a game. Over 60% of aggression between off-lead dogs can be solved in this way. It is a great strategy.


If you know that it is normal for a fearful dog to attack, freeze or run away, you will have more control over the situation.


Check out my book “Decoding Dog Behaviour” if you are interested to learn more!

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