It can be heartbreaking when your dog is suddenly afraid of you.
You try to be the good dog parent that you’ve always been, but for some weird reason your dog shuts down and is afraid.
First: Take a deep breath.
Second: Continue reading this article. Here you’ll discover:
- 9 surprising reasons why your dog is suddenly afraid of you.
- 5 handy tips on what to do if your dog seems to be scared of you.
- What socialization has to do with making your dog not fearful of you.
- The things you could be doing wrong to make your dog fearful of you.
- And many more…
Table of contents
- Why is my dog suddenly afraid of me?
- 9 surprising reasons why your dog is suddenly afraid of you
- 5 tips on what to do if your dog seems to be scared of you
- Pet parents care to share
Why is my dog suddenly afraid of me?
Your dog is suddenly afraid of you because you have punished them. Punishment could be in the form of scolding, hitting, and using force. Punishment often leads to stress, anxiety, and fear. Other factors include neutering, genetics, aging, and medical conditions.
9 surprising reasons why your dog is suddenly afraid of you
#1: Your dog is just shy
Your dog suddenly seems scared of you. It’s possible that they are just shy.
Shy dogs don’t necessarily want to be alone. But they are afraid to interact with others. Even you, their pet parent.
Why are some dogs shy while others are Mr. and Ms. Confidence?
Remember, each dog has their own personality and preference.
Another reason for a dog’s shyness is if they’ve just come from a shelter or pet store. Being adopted by you, taken out of their old place, and to a new home are all new experiences.
In addition, they don’t know you yet. They have no idea what awaits them in your home.
So don’t feel offended if they don’t trust you yet.
#2: Negative experiences
Your dog is scared of you and pees. That is a huge downer.
After all, you want nothing but the best relationship between you and your dog.
But if your dog is scared of you to the point of peeing, something’s definitely wrong.
Rescue dogs’ past trauma
Some dogs have bad experiences before finding their forever home.
Take Pogo for example. He was an unwanted dog.
His owner planned to leave him at the dog park. But a Good Samaritan decided to bring Pogo home.
At first, Pogo was frightened in his new home. This led his new pet parent to assume that his former owners abused him.
But the new family took care of Pogo. They showed him love.
Another rescue is Munch, who had bad experiences prior to being adopted.
Munch was a stray. A man found him and took him home. The man intended Munch to be a companion to his other dog.
But Munch and the dog fought. Munch was left with injuries on his head and neck.
The man surrendered Munch to a high kill shelter. There he was assigned a room for dogs that are unadoptable.
But a human took a chance on Munch and adopted him. Years later, Munch turned out to be a good tracker. He came to like people and loved his new life.
So if your dog is a rescue, they may act scared around you. They’ve probably experienced trauma. And it might take a while for them to warm up to you.
Negative experiences with you
Why your dog suddenly fears you could be due to negative experiences with you.
I am referring to instances that you don’t intentionally scare your dog. But dogs find these a scary experience.
For instance, you were watching a sports game on TV. Then you suddenly shouted in excitement or frustration.
Or perhaps you stubbed your toe. The pain had you cursing all the gods.
And in all these instances, your dog was there.
Your reactions were not directed at your dog. But your loud voice might have scared them. Or your dog felt that the shouting was meant for them.
These experiences could have negative effects on your pooch.
Your dog is afraid of you and you don’t know why.
Think back on several occasions when your dog did something bad.
Perhaps you scolded them when they destroyed your favorite shoe. Maybe you have reacted disproportionately.
In the heat of the moment, you might have gotten in your dog’s face. You showed them the damaged shoe and said things they couldn’t fathom.
And you thought it was justifiable considering what the dog has done.
But remember, our reasoning is different than theirs. Even if punishing them seems justifiable to you, they don’t see it that way.
For your dog, you were behaving aggressively. Some may even see your actions as violent or threatening.
In other cases, some dog parents use physical punishment. Maybe hitting the dog with something. Throwing the dog outside the house. Hitting the nose or mouth.
Punishing your dog should never be an option. If anything, it only leads to stress, anxiety, and fear.
Previous studies have found out that punishment affects a dog’s welfare.
This one study observed 92 companion dogs from 7 training schools in Portugal. The dogs were divided into several groups according to the training method used on them.
Group Aversive had 28 dogs, Group Reward had 42 dogs and Group Mixed had 22 dogs.
The results showed that dogs trained using aversive methods had more stress-related behaviors. The dogs also showed an increase in their cortisol levels after training.
In addition, these dogs had pessimistic responses to ambiguous situations. This is compared to dogs that received reward-based or mixed training.
Another study found out that punishment compromises a dog’s welfare. In this study, the researchers surveyed 364 dog parents about the use of training methods.
The researchers also wanted to find out the effects of these methods on a dog’s behavior.
The survey found out that:
- 12% of dog parents used physical punishment.
- 66% of dog parents used vocal punishment.
On the other hand…
- 11% used play.
- 51% used food rewards.
- 60% used praise.
The results showed that the dogs scored high in obedience when trained using rewards. However, dogs showed more problematic behaviors when trained using punishment.
The most prevalent problem behaviors were:
- Barking at people.
- Showing fear in a few situations.
- Showing excitement in a few situations.
Note: The researchers from both studies recommended the use of positive training methods.
This research evaluated the risks and benefits of neutering to both dogs and cats.
For females, neutering eliminates diseases or complications associated with pregnancy. In males, it can reduce cases of the canine prostate.
For both sexes, neutering can reduce behavioral problems such as aggression. In particular, reduced roaming behavior, urine marking, and mounting were observed.
However, there are studies with conflicting results. This one study for example.
The researchers conducted a large-scale survey to collect information for 10,839 dogs.
The results showed that neutered dogs were more aggressive and more fearful.
The fear and anxiety scores for neutered dogs were higher than those intact. This was regardless of the age of neutering.
Take these findings into consideration when deciding whether to have your pooch neutered.
#4: Aging and medical conditions
Dogs rarely live as long as their furparents. And when they get old, one can’t help feeling sad.
Not only because of the fact that the end is near. But for the possibilities of a dog going through difficulties during this period.
It’s also a challenging time for dog parents when dogs become old. There are many changes to a dog’s behavior that confuse us.
For instance, your dog is afraid of you, and you don’t know why.
There are medical conditions that cause changes in dogs. Certain diseases might leave them in pain, and this makes them fearful.
In aging dogs, certain diseases lead to fear and anxiety. You’ve got cognitive dysfunction syndrome or dog dementia. There’s also Alzheimer’s.
Clinical signs of dementia are observed in one out of three dogs 11 years old and above. By 16, nearly all dogs have at least one clinical sign.
Aside from being afraid of you, dementia has the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite.
- Extreme irritability.
Aging dogs also start to lose their faculties. They experience vision and hearing loss. And old dogs seem to be easily startled.
They may also pee without knowing it.
All these changes as they age can be scary for a dog.
#5: Your body language
Dogs may be unable to talk. But they are adept at reading your body language.
It may have a lot to do with why your dog would suddenly be scared of you.
Sometimes, you scare your own dog without knowing it.
You come home looking like a grumpy bear. Even Da Vinci can’t paint your facial expression. And your voice doesn’t sound nice.
All these tell your dog you’re not happy.
And maybe there are times when you are too preoccupied with a lot of things. You don’t even notice your dog cowering in a corner.
Nothing seems wrong. But why is your dog suddenly scared of you?
Well, it could be genetics.
Did you know that fear can be inherited? A female and male dog with a fearful temperament may give birth to a fearful puppy.
Not only that. By nature, dogs are scared of unfamiliar things. This is called neophobia.
Do you wonder why kids reject unfamiliar food? That’s neophobia at work.
In dogs, neophobia serves as a defense mechanism. It’s to protect themselves from something unfamiliar or new.
#7: Recognizing a pattern in human behavior
If you’re asking, “Why does my dog suddenly seem scared of me,” the answer might surprise you.
Because it could be your own behavior that’s to blame.
There’s this one dog parent who shared about her experience on a forum. So a dog arrived to become a part of their family.
When the dog was alone, she would poop in the house.
The parent’s response every time she found poop would be to yell at the dog. Then she would slam doors in search of cleaning materials and look angrily at the dog.
One day, the dog parent came home and the dog shrunk away from her. She searched the house for accidents. There was none.
So she approached the dog with a sunny disposition. The dog responded by wagging her tail and greeting her.
It happened many times. Until the dog parent realized the truth.
Her dog wasn’t acting out of guilt. The poor dog was stressed by the pet parent’s past behavior.
#8: You are stressed
Why your dog has suddenly become scared of you may have to do with your stress.
One superpower your dog possesses is sensing your mood. They know something is wrong when you’re stressed.
Perhaps you’re stressed with work, studies, or family issues. Or something major is worrying you.
Wouldn’t you know it, your dog could sense these.
In fact, your dog is stressed when you’re stressed. And this study can prove that.
The study observed 58 humans and their dogs. The researchers measured their hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) in the summer and winter months.
The findings showed that the HCC of humans strongly matched the HCC of the dogs. An increase in HCC of humans meant an increase in HCC of dogs.
These findings indicate that stress levels in humans and their dogs are synchronized.
Though it doesn’t feel good when you or your dog is stressed, something is consoling about it. That your dog is keyed to your emotions.
But more than that, dogs are capable of comforting their stressed furmoms and furdads.
There’s a certain point in a dog’s life that’s very crucial.
That is, in terms of their temperament.
I am referring to the first 3 months of a puppy’s life. A responsible breeder spearheads the puppy’s socialization.
The first 3 weeks until the 3rd month is a crucial period for socialization. This is the period that a puppy bonds with other animals and humans.
During this time, they learn that people and their environment are safe. They also learn body cues and what they mean.
Lack of proper socialization affects a puppy’s temperament as an adult. So does experiencing negative things during this period.
In particular, they’ll grow fearing just about anything.
There’s an off chance that you might get a poorly socialized puppy. This could explain why they are suddenly scared of you.
5 tips on what to do if your dog seems to be scared of you
#1: Give your dog space and time
So your dog is scared of you. You feel like crying a river because it’s so unfair!
But one of the best things to help your dog is to give them space and time.
I’ve seen pet parents grabbing their squealing dog. They thought it was funny how their dog was reacting.
But this only stressed out the dog more. Or scared them more.
Giving them space means keeping your distance. Allow them to come to you. Do not approach them, especially if they show signs of fear.
Also, use a calm voice and don’t make sudden movements. And definitely don’t make them feel trapped.
If your dog cowers in a corner, let them. Avoid direct eye contact as this could be seen as threatening.
Instead, stay nearby where they can see you. Perhaps sit or lie on the floor near them. Bring a book with you or watch TV from your spot.
These things will show your dog that you’re not a threat. That they are safe with you.
Note: This could be a long process but don’t lose hope.
#2: Gain your dog’s trust
Your dog might be scared of you after a negative experience with you. But it’s not too late to regain their trust.
After giving your dog space and time, you can slowly begin to get a little closer.
Remember, slowly. Let them see you’re not here to hurt them.
If they approach you, let them sniff your hand. Continue talking to them in a soft voice. That helps a lot in encouraging them to approach you.
Trust will be built in time. If they approach you, pet them slowly. Then carry out bonding moments with them.
Take them for walks. Spend lots of time playing games they enjoy. Show them you’re a fun furmom or furdad.
All the time you spend with them won’t go down the drain. This is the time when your dog is making up their mind about you.
So make sure you’re making a good first impression on your pooch.
#3: Positive reinforcement is the way
The way I see it, your dog will benefit more from positive reinforcement.
The studies have proven it.
So if you’re teaching your dog to trust you – and discard their fear of you in the process- reward is the key.
Now, food is not the only form of reward. Positive reinforcement also makes use of praise, play, and attention as rewards.
#4: Don’t skimp on reward
Use rewards to your advantage.
Use appetizing and smelly treats when you’re gaining your dog’s trust. Or encourage them to play with you using toys they’ve never seen before.
And if your dog shows improvements, no matter how small, reward accordingly.
You can begin with yummy treats. If they eat the treat from your hand, hurray! And if not? Just lay the treat on the floor and move away.
If they make a move, shower them with praises. Give them ear or tummy scratches if they allow you.
But don’t overdo this because you don’t want to startle them.
Let them sniff your hand first, then gradually give them brief strokes.
Note: Watch out for all the treats you’re giving. Too much can lead to unwanted weight gain in your dog.
#5: Be patient and kind
I get it. Teaching your dog not to fear you might test your patience.
And at times, you feel like raining them with your frustrations.
But it’s going to take a lot of patience to change your fearful dog. So hang in there.
Arm yourself with patience and kindness. Your efforts will not go to waste.
Because once your dog trusts you again, it will be one of the best feelings in the world.
Dog parent #1
A dog parent shares an experience on a forum. A friend of his owns a large mixed-breed dog.
The dog was huge. And you’d think he wasn’t afraid of anything. Or so his family thought.
Turns out something happened when the dog was about 6 months old. One day, the dog was in the yard, which was surrounded by a heavy chain link fence.
There was a table, some chairs and an umbrella by the fence.
A strong wind blew the umbrella against the fence. Then the fence was knocked over the dog, trapping him.
The friend’s mom was explaining what happened to the dad. They mentioned the word “umbrella” many times.
Seven years later and this dog parent and his friend were talking about that event. When the word “umbrella” was mentioned, the dog did something that baffled the dog parent.
The dog cowered and hid by the couch. It was only then that they realized that “umbrella” was the dog’s bogeyman.
Dog parent #2
This dog parent’s dog had a very unfortunate experience in the past. The dog had been hurt, starved, and neglected by her previous owners.
One day, the dog parent tripped over something. When the dog saw him, he was in a position that looked like he was about to kick.
The dog got scared. She let out a yelp and hid from him for days.
Dog parent #3
It can take some time for a dog to fully trust a human.
This is what this dog parent found out with her dog. Her dog had a traumatic past with a previous owner.
According to her, it took between 6 months and a year before the dog trusted her.
What she did was bonded with her dog as much as she could. She took him to parks, hang out together, went for car rides, and even partied together.
Then something happened that assured the dog parent that her efforts paid off.
One day, the previous owner tried to steal the dog.
The dog parent tried to stop the assailant. And then the dog came to her rescue. The assailant got a black eye from the dog parent and was arrested.