7 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Is Acting Scared + Tips

Why Is My Dog Acting Scared

Aaaahhh!!!

Your dog’s scared of many things. In their mind, life is a horror movie. 

You wonder, “Is my dog normal?”

Keep reading to find out:

  • 29 scenarios of scared dogs. 
  • What you need to do about this behavior.
  • 7 weird reasons why your dog is acting scared.
  • And much more…

Why is my dog acting scared?

Your dog is acting scared for reasons such as having a phobia or separation anxiety, feeling pain, sensing natural disasters, bad training, experiencing unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations, or lacking socialization.


7 reasons why your dog is acting scared


#1: Phobia

Like many pooches, your dog is terrified of thunderstorms. 

But by the way they’re behaving, you’re concerned that it’s more than just that

Something worse. 

They’re scratching themselves, crying, and even peeing themselves. There’s panic in their eyes and they’re very anxious.

Oh no!

Your dog could be having an intense fear known as phobia

They must have been very scared when they first heard the loud sounds of thunder.  And until now, they can still remember that fear.

Aside from thunder, dogs can also have a phobia of certain noises, people, and other dogs.

#2: They’re in pain

Your Dog's Acting Scared Because He's In Pain

“Doggo, where are you? Oh, there you are!”

You found your dog hiding behind the closet. 

But the moment they saw you, they hid further. 

Uh-oh!

Why’s your pooch scared? 

They may be acting like this because they’re sick. When dogs feel any form of discomfort, they hide away from their dog parents. 

“But how can I tell exactly if my dog is in pain?” 

You can look out for other signs such as:

  • Excessive licking.
  • Arching their back.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Avoiding physical contact.
  • Reluctance in standing up or lying down. 

#3: Scared of being alone

Your dog’s fine when they’re with you. 

But the moment you leave – even for a minute – they’d be all scared and frightened. 

They would whine and scratch at the door. And then walk around in circles until you come back.

“Why is my pooch acting this way?”

This could be because of separation anxiety.

This is a common behavior for dogs who’ve had many keepers in the past. Or those who experience neglect before. 

They get anxious when alone because they’re scared of being abandoned again.

#4: There’s a disaster coming

Did you know that animals can predict if a natural disaster is coming?

Believe it or not, there are many studies about this. Researchers even say that dogs can sense tornados, tsunamis, and even earthquakes.

Once they sense something, they would act out of character. 

Some would become scared. While others would try to flee to a safer location. 

“So… Is this because of their ‘sixth sense’?”

Could be. 

But aside from that, their amazing abilities may also contribute to this.

They may be hearing the ground rumble beneath us. 

Or they may be smelling a change in the air. 

Interesting, isn’t it?

#5: Lacking exposure

Your Dog Is Acting Scared Because It Lacks Exposure

You’re wondering why every time you have a visitor, your dog is acting scared. 

It doesn’t matter whether they’re your friends or relatives. Your pooch would avoid them at all costs. 

Your doggo would stay in the room or hide under your bed. 

“What could be the reason behind this, Petya?”

You know, sometimes, the lack of socializing is causing your dog to behave this way. 

They’re not exposed much to their own kind. So they don’t have much confidence in meeting people and other dogs.

#6: Bad training

Dogs love training. They get a job to do and they’re receiving treats from it. 

But wait… Why’s your dog cowering when you’re teaching them? 

Uh-oh! 

Something seems wrong.

According to research, dogs get confused about your commands if you are not rewarding them in time. 

And because of that, you’re displeased with their training’s results. 

Your body language may be communicating that you’re getting impatient and angry. And that’s why your pooch is acting scared. 

#7: Unfamiliar things and experiences

Puppies are still in their discovery stage where everything is still scary.

Vacuums, being in high places, and larger dogs. These are all things that could make your pup jump out of fear. 

And if they get very scared, they could also pee themselves. 

This is normal for puppies. 

What you should do is expose them to different things early. This can help build their confidence as they grow old. 

Unless you want them to be scaredy-cats like these dogs below: 

Bonus: Uncomfortable situations

Fun fact time!

Did you know that dogs can understand up to 200 words?

“We’re going to the vet.”

“It’s bath time!”

“Let’s go to the groomer.”

Whenever you say these things, there’s a possibility that your dog can understand you. Especially if they’ve associated these words before with something they don’t like.

Therefore they may try to run out of the house to escape. 

Kidding!

My friend’s dog, Harold, is very excited when his dog parents take out their leash for a walk. But once he hears the word ‘vet’ or ‘bath’, he would refuse going out by all means. 

He would have to be dragged out or carried instead.

Silly pooch.

It’s natural for all dogs to behave this way. Because going for a bath, groomer, or vet are considered stressful situations for dogs.

What to do about it

The development of fear in dogs starts when they reach 18 to 36 weeks of age. 

During this period, you need to expose them to different things to build their confidence. This will help them get over fear as they grow old. 

For adult dogs, the best way to overcome their fear is by counter-conditioning. 

If they’re frightened of a certain person, have that person give treats to your pooch. 

You can also try desensitizing.  

If Your dog is scared of a certain object, slowly introduce the trigger until they get used to it. 

Make sure to do all these things in a safe environment. 

When to go to the vet

You should see a vet if your dog is experiencing the following:

  • Seizures.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Being lethargic. 
  • Muscle tremors.
  • Gastrointestinal upset.
  • Difficulty in breathing or heavy panting.

Read next: Why Does My Dog Suddenly Pant? 19 Dangers + 5 Tips


29 scenarios of dogs acting scared


#1: Dog acting scared for no reason

Your Dog's Acting Scared For No Reason

You’re worried because something has changed. 

Your active and happy pooch is acting scared for no reason at all.

They’re running away from you. Avoiding your touch. And they’re jumping on every little sound they hear.

“What’s happening?”

Here’s the first thing you need to do. 

Rule out the reasons why your dog could be behaving this way. 

It’s possible that they’re feeling pain. And in this case, have your pooch checked in a pet clinic. 

Another reason could be a recent change in their environment. 

They haven’t adjusted yet. So they’re still scared and stressed. 

To help them adjust, you can let them follow a new routine. 

And you can also give them something they enjoy, like their favorite toy or treat. It needs to be something that can give them a sense of familiarity.

#2: Dog acting scared after neutering

“Omgosh! What happened?

Where are my balls!!!????”

One side effect of neutering your dog is they’re gonna act scared for a short while. 

To understand why your dog will feel this way, try to look at it from your dog’s POV.

They’d wake up to see their testicles gone. And they’re in pain because of the surgery’s incision.

Aside from those, their testosterone will also drop.

“What about that?”

See, testosterone is the hormone that’s giving your dog confidence. 

It gives your pooch self-esteem that makes them think they can fight off any threats.

In short, it makes your dog feel like a ‘Superdog’.

So when your pooch’s got a low supply of this hormone, they’ll get scared. 

They’d think that they’re weak and won’t be able to defend themselves when attacked. 

“Oooh, I get it now.”

What you can do right now is to observe your pooch. Keep them calm by staying with them.

No worries. 

Once they recover, they’d be back to their old, confident self.

#3: Dog acting scared of me

“Petya, why is my dog scared of me?”

Is your dog a rescue by chance? Or is this fear a recent thing?

Well, this is a tough one. There are different reasons why your pooch could be scared of you. 

If you got them from a shelter or breeder, they may not have good experiences with their previous keepers. 

That’s why they’re still scared and wary of you.

Now, if this is a recent thing, you might have hurt them in some way. 

You could’ve stepped on their body by accident. Or they were misbehaving one day and you hit them. 

See, hitting your dogs as a punishment has long been debunked. It’ll just make them lose trust in you.  

So to gain their trust again, you need to take it little by little. 

Strengthen your bond with your pooch by playing bonding games with them. Take the time to teach them new commands and tricks. 

And instead of hitting, you can try positive reinforcement or giving rewards for a job well done. 

Your pooch will love that!

Keep their routines as well. This gives your dog certainty and confidence. So feed them on time and take them on walks everyday. 

#4: Dog acting scared and confused (disoriented)

One reason why your dog is acting scared and confused is because of dog dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.

This brain disorder can make your dog lose a sense of their environment. They could also start to develop weird habits because of this. 

Another reason why your dog is scared and confused is that they’re back from surgery. 

They’re disoriented because they’re still under the influence of medication.

During these times, it’s best to observe your dog. 

Make sure they’re away from things that can fall on them in case they bump on something.

#5: Dog acting scared and shaking

“Why’s my dog acting scared and shaking?”

Uh-oh! 

This is a serious one. 

Having a neurological disorder could be the cause why your dog is shaking and trembling. 

Now, if your dog is also experiencing episodes of seizures, it’d be frightening for them.

To know if your dog has this disorder, look out for other symptoms such as:

  • Jerking.
  • Stiffening.
  • Collapsing.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Warning: This is a medical emergency. Take your dog to the nearest animal clinic once they stop having seizures. 

#6: Dog acting scared suddenly

Your Dog Is Acting Scared Suddenly

Your dog could be acting scared suddenly because of phobia.

“But Petya, why would my dog have a phobia?”

Well, phobias in dogs are created by negative experiences they’ve had. It can vary from having an irrational fear of loud sounds, certain smells, and even other animals.

They could’ve encountered something unpleasant when they were still a pup. And as they grew older, this fear remained intact.

Another reason why your dog would act scared is that they’re sensing danger nearby. 

Like if there’s a big storm coming.

In such a case, keep your dog indoors. 

This is to keep them safe and to avoid them from escaping out of fear. 

#7: Dog acting scared and panting (breathing heavy)

One possibility why your pooch is acting scared and panting is separation anxiety.

Another is having a phobia.

“Uhmm… what’s the difference?”

Well, having separation anxiety means your dog gets stressed whenever you leave.

While phobia is having extreme fear of something. 

These are two different things, but both can cause anxiety in your dog. Here are their other symptoms:

In cases of severe anxiety, your vet can provide your dog with medications that can help them to calm down. 

#8: Dog acting scared in house

Your dog can hear 4 times more than you can. Because of this, they get afraid of loud noises. 

Especially the unpredictable ones. Like the vacuum, your alarms, and even the fire truck’s siren outside.

To help your pooch get over their fears, counter-condition them. Give them treats every time they hear these sounds.

With this, your pooch will associate these noises with something positive instead. 

#9: Dog acting scared at night

“Help! My dog acts scared at night.”

If you have ghosts in mind, think again. 

There’s a more valid reason why your pooch may be acting scared during nighttime.

Pests such as rodents, termites, cockroaches, etc. are all nocturnal. This means that they thrive during the night. 

It’s the time they look for food, destroy wood, and eat your plants. 

Heck, they will even bite you if they have the chance!

So while you’re fast asleep, your dog’s kept awake by the little noises they make. 

Those rustles, little steps, and gnawing are disturbing to your dog’s ears. That’s why your pooch gets scared.

Solving your pest problem could be tough and expensive. But consider having pest control in your home to give your pooch peaceful nights.

If you want to know more about this topic, this article is a must-read.

#10: Dog acting scared and clingy

When your dog is sick, they can get very clingy

They’re scared because they don’t know why they’re feeling sluggish. Or why their tummy is hurting. 

So to comfort themselves, they want to stay close to you. Like a child who’s clinging to their parents when they’re feeling unwell. 

#11: Dog acting scared and hiding

Have you noticed your dog hiding under the bed or in dark corners whenever they get sick?

It’s pretty unusual, isn’t it? 

You’d think that they would prefer being with you or in a more comfortable space. 

But noooooo. They want somewhere hidden.

Surprising as it is, there’s a reason for this behavior. 

Your dog feels vulnerable and weak whenever they’re sick. And this makes them scared. 

Their instinct is telling them that they need to hide somewhere safe. In their mind, they need to do this to protect themselves in case there’s a threat. 

During this time, forcing your dog to leave their hiding place isn’t recommended. 

Just provide them with the medications they need. 

And make sure that they also have enough food and water available. 

#12: Old dog acting scared

Your Dog Is Getting Old And Is Acting Scared

When you hear the word ‘dementia’, what comes to your mind? 

For me, I think of old people forgetting who they are. 

Getting lost in the neighborhood, or having no control of their bowel movements. 

Well, did you know that dogs can also have dementia?

Perhaps, it’s also the reason why your old dog is acting scared. This disorder is making them confused and disoriented all of a sudden. 

Aside from that, dementia could also cause your pooch to: 

  • Walk circles.
  • Over-vocalize.
  • Eat non-edible items.
  • Poop and pee inside the house.
  • Become irritable and aggressive.

The vet can provide medications for your old pooch. But the next best thing you can do as their dog parent is to be with them and make sure they’re safe.

Also read: 17 Reasons Why Dogs (Suddenly) Act Crazy + Dangers & Tips

#13: Dog acting scared not eating

Your dog gets super excited during their mealtime. But one day, they became scared and even refused to eat.

“Oh no! What happened?”

There could be something in their food. And their digestive system isn’t used to it. 

It could be giving them gastrointestinal problems. And it’s causing them to have a lack of appetite. 

Look at their food label. Check if it has the right nutrients that are compatible with your pooch’s needs.

#14: Dog acting scared during heat

Women experience mood swings when they’re on their period. 

They cry, laugh, become stressed and frightened – all in one day. 

It’s the same as your female dog. 

During the heat or estrous cycle, they experience a surge in their hormones. And this makes them feel all sorts of emotions. 

Because this is strange for your dog, they get stressed and scared. 

“How can I make my dog feel better?”

The best way to calm your dog is to distract them. 

Give them a light massage. Or you could also take the time to teach your beautiful pooch a new trick. 

#15: Dog acting scared and paranoid

There could be different reasons why your dog’s behaving this way. 

One, they have a traumatic past that makes them wary of everything around them.

Two, your pooch has a neurological disorder that makes them hallucinate things.

In both cases, you need to ask for professional help. 

Ask a dog behaviorist or a trusted veterinarian for advice.

#16: Dog acting scared after spay

Spaying is surgery. 

And surgeries can be frightening for dogs. 

It’s because they don’t understand what’s happening and why they’re feeling discomfort. 

Aside from that, their estrogen level also decreases. Making them shy and scared at first.

Some dogs may feel a little bit better after a day. And others take some time before they feel their usual selves again.

During this time, your presence is more than enough for your pooch. 

#17: Dog acting scared after seizure

It’s a normal reaction for dogs to become scared after seizures. 

They’re confused about what’s happening with them, so they may run around because of stress and panic. 

“What causes seizures in dogs?”

According to VCA Hospitals, seizures could be caused by different things such as:

  • Toxins.
  • Liver disease.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Idiopathic epilepsy.
  • Neurological disorders.
  • Brain tumors and trauma.

Here’s what dog seizures look like: 

It’s heartbreaking to see your dog experiencing this. But during their episodes, it’s important to keep yourself calm. 

If your pooch senses your panic, they would become more worried and scared.

After the seizures, cover them with a blanket to comfort them. 

You can let them sleep. And once they wake up, give them food and water. However, don’t force them to eat if they refuse.

#18: Dog acting scared and lethargic

Here are some possible reasons why your dog is acting scared and lethargic:

  • Having pain or illness.
  • Side effects of medication.
  • Eating something toxic or having food poisoning.
  • Major changes in the household and environment.

Each of the reasons mentioned above requires a different treatment. So the first thing you need to do is identify what’s the cause of these behaviors. 

“But Petya, 

I still don’t know why my dog’s behaving this way.”

It’s okay! If you’re still unsure, you can ask for a vet’s advice here.

#19: Dog acting scared and drooling

“My dog’s salivating like crazy. 

What’s happening?”

One of the symptoms of a scared dog is excessive drooling. Now, is your pooch also shaking, pacing, being vocal, or licking things? 

If so, they could be feeling an insane amount of stress caused by:

  • Phobias.
  • Loud noises.
  • Mistreatment or abuse.
  • Being in an uncomfortable situation.

What you need to do is reduce their exposure to these things. 

You can move them to a safer location. Like your room or inside the house. 

To make them calm down, distract them with cuddles. 

Or provide them with mental-stimulating activities to divert their attention.

#20: Dog acting scared and skittish

Your pooch always gets scared. They’re always skittish and paranoid. A tiny leaf rustle could make them run for their life.

“Why are they like this?”

Oftentimes, dogs behave this way because they lack exposure.

Try to take them outdoors more often. And build their self-confidence by letting them socialize with other people and dogs.

Careful not to overwhelm your dog though. Tasking a scared dog to a dog park is not a good idea. 

Better talk to your neighbour or a friend and arrange a dog playdate with another pooch.

#21: Dog acting scared of food (bowl)

Tling! Tling!

Check if your dog’s tag is bumping their food bowl. The clanking noise it makes could be bothering your pooch.

Aside from that, your poor pooch must’ve been bitten by ants while they’re eating. And because of it, they got scared.

Don’t fret!

You can entice your dog to eat from their bowl again. Try putting high-value treats in there like chicken strips. 

Make sure that it’s always clean so insects won’t come near it. 

Now, if they’re bothered with their tag, give them a smaller one. 

#22: Dog acting scared to go outside

“What should I do? My dog’s scared to go outside.”

Oooh, this may be a tough one. 

There could be different reasons why your pooch would be scared of the outdoors.

You should identify first what’s causing this.

  • Is the road slippery?
  • Are you in a new neighborhood?
  • Are they scared of other dogs or certain people?
  • Or is it because of the loud noises they hear (like car horns, sirens, train whistles)?

If the trigger is something you can avoid, then do it.

If not, try to distract your pooch when you come across them with treats.

You can also encourage your dog by conditioning them that being outside is fun. Aside from your usual walks, you can also play with them.

#23: Dog acting scared after grooming

Dogs are often scared of grooming.

They’re carried by strangers and get manhandled. Their fur is trimmed.

And then there are the scented shampoos they all dislike. (Because it doesn’t smell like poop or garbage.)

While this kind of stress is often short-lived, you must still be on the lookout. 

Observe if your dog is getting harmed during grooming.

“Noted! But how can I make my dog also enjoy grooming?”

You can reward your pooch with treats after their sessions. This way, they’ll be more focused on receiving rewards rather than grooming. 

Also, don’t leave them alone. Your pooch will be calmer if they can see you with them inside the salon.

#24: Dog acting scared and sniffing

Sniffing for humans is a usual thing. 

You sniff your clothes to see if you can still wear them. Or you sniff to know who the heck farted for the second time.

But in dog’s behaviors, this could mean a lot. 

A dog sniffing is a sign of nervousness and stress.

They could sniff to avoid certain people or other dogs they come across while on walks. 

They could also do this when they’re investigating something. Or to distract themselves from a stressful situation. 

Observe them if they’re showing any serious signs of anxiety. 

Move them away from the trigger if it’s possible.

#25: Dog acting scared after shots

Dogs are not only afraid of the sudden prick of their shots. They’re terrified of animal clinics and vets in general!

O.K. Confession time…

I’m terrified of going to the dentist. But I still do it.

Why?

Well, adulting and all. I can’t have the luxury of my Mom scheduling my appointments anymore. Nor do I get to whine about it. So I suffer silently.

Don’t get the wrong impression though. My dentist is a nice guy. It’s just that I’m scared of doctors in general.

But back to your dog.

Your pooch always has bad experiences whenever they come to the vet. 

Every time they go there, they get neutered or spayed, vaccinated, etc.

In this case, here’s what you can do. 

Always go to your trusted professionals. The familiarity can make your dog comfortable.

You can also encourage your dog in getting shots or going to the vet by giving them rewards after. This way, they can have something to look out for.

#26: Dog acting scared and throwing up

“My nephew fed my dog chocolates!”

Oh no!

The reason why your dog’s scared and throwing up is because they’re experiencing food poisoning.

There are certain foods we eat that are poisonous to our dogs. Chocolates, avocados, macadamia nuts, and caffeine are just some of them.

If your pooch ingested these foods, they could experience:

  • Death.
  • Nausea.
  • Severe thirst.
  • Heavy panting.
  • Heart palpitations.

Take your dog to a poison control center for immediate medical attention. 

#27: Dog acting scared after surgery

Surgeries like spaying or neutering can cause your dog to develop behavior problems. Like being irritable, aggressive, and scared. 

But take note that these are all normal side effects. 

Don’t worry too much. These effects don’t last long. And after a few days, your dog will be back to being normal. 🙂

#28: Dog acting scared and peeing

Extreme emotions caused by anxiety, phobias, and abuse could cause your dog to pee when they’re scared. 

For instance, they get attacked by a larger dog. 

Or they came across their abuser.

Another reason for their peeing could be because of a medical condition. Like gastrointestinal upset for example. 

If your pooch has this, they may also experience involuntary urination as one of its symptoms.

If you want to know more about how to prevent this, check out this article.

#29: My dog acts scared when I come home

It’s normal for dogs to greet their dog parents by jumping on them. They do this because they’re very happy. 

But yours don’t jump or wag their tails when you come home. 

They’re scared of you. 

Uh-oh!

Dogs who tremble or hide from their dog parents out of fear could be caused by being mistreated or abused. 

In this case, reflect on your ways and how you correct your pooch. You may have been too rough on them when they’re misbehaving.

BONUS: Dog acts scared of water bowl

Nah… your pooch isn’t scared of drowning in a water bowl. 

The reason why they could be afraid of their water bowl is that their neck hurts when drinking. 

Their water bowl could be too low or too high when they dip their head. 

What you can do is adjust the height of their water bowl to make it more comfortable according to their height. 

Also, observe them for any signs of neck injuries or sprains. 🙂