All dogs have their own quirks, fears, phobias and things that get them excited. Since most dogs have very strong senses, especially from a smelling and hearing standpoint, it can lead to potentially being more fearful about common things. Every dog reacts differently to what scares them. Some will just go curl up in a tight ball in the corner of a room or a closet, while others may want to be nowhere but sitting in your lap.

Identifying and understanding this behavior as a pet owner can be challenging at first, but you’ll quickly understand what triggers it when events repeat themselves. Unless you adopted your dog as a puppy, you may not know what their life has been like up to this point. For example, if your dog gets scared during a thunderstorm, you never know if they had to spend nights outside in the rain before they found their way to your loving home. Providing your dog with comfort during these times when they need it will help alleviate their fears, or make them feel more comfortable at the very least. Here are some of the most common fears dogs have and why they may be so fearful during these events.


It’s always interesting to see how dogs react to thunderstorms. Some won’t be fazed by them at all, while others may tremble as they sit on your lap until it passes. The noise is the main reason why dogs are sometimes afraid of thunderstorms, since their sense of hearing is much stronger than humans. So when you hear a loud crack of thunder, your dog likely hears it twice as loud as you do.

What you may not know is how your dog physically feels during a thunderstorm as well. The changing atmospheric conditions and static electricity in the air are felt much more by dogs than humans. Studies have shown dogs feel some sort of tingling in their coat at times during a thunderstorm, which can be uncomfortable for them to say the least. This sensation will go away as the thunderstorm moves on, but knowing what your dog is possibly feeling will help you understand their actions and you can provide care as needed.

The Veterinarian

Dogs don’t necessarily fear the veterinarian because of the potential pain or discomfort they could experience. Instead, going to the veterinarian is typically an emotional experience because of the other dogs and humans in the office, as well as being touched in different ways by a stranger. The over-stimulation is enough to make a dog remember the office and possibly not want to go in when they recognize it.

One of the best ways to make your dog’s veterinarian trip experience better is to go in their office during random times, even when the dog isn’t sick and doesn’t need a checkup. Most vet offices will understand these appointments and will take the time to play with them, pet them and give them treats for a few minutes. Creating this happy environment should eventually alleviate their fear since they won’t associate the veterinarian’s office with a negative experience.

Other People

Most dogs aren’t afraid of other people when they see them unless they’ve been neglected or abused in their past. However, some dogs simply have bad feelings about people if they don’t know them. For example, some dogs may get nervous around men with deep voices. Others may get anxious with children running around. The good news is the more you bring your dog around different people and situations, the more comfortable they will get over time. Start exposing them to different people as early as possible, so they will understand the people you bring them around are good people and there’s nothing to be scared of.

Other Dogs

Fear of other dogs can develop in many different ways. Bad interactions with certain dogs could lead to them being more fearful of them in the future, while some dogs just simply may not be very social. Most of the time taking your dog to a dog park or anywhere else where they have free access to interact with dogs will help them become more comfortable. If your dog is legitimately fearful of other dogs, just understand it’s going to take them a while to get over the fear. In extreme situations, it may be valuable to seek a dog trainer’s advice if nothing you do works.

Unfamiliar Items

Sometimes the most random things will strike fear in dogs. And as a pet owner, you have no way of anticipating what will scare them until they come in contact with it. Things like a loud motorcycle passing by, balloons, umbrellas, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, noisy toys or anything that makes a strange noise can scare them. In most situations, these phobias aren’t anything to be worried about, as it just could be your dog’s way of alerting you to something they find to be odd. Barking or playful growling is normal, so as long as your dog doesn’t show signs of aggression when they come across any unfamiliar items like this, then it’s usually nothing to worry about.


Fireworks are similar to thunderstorms in the sense of the noise being the main factor creating fear in dogs. The main differences with fireworks are the smells and the visuals, assuming your dog is outside during them. Again, some dogs may not be fazed by the loud noises of fireworks, while others react very adversely. Regardless of the situation, it’s always best to put your dog inside when you know a fireworks show will be going on. Your dog may be anxious at the very least, so providing them with the comfort of the indoors will help them to be more at peace.

Being By Themselves

Separation anxiety is very real, and dogs handle this anxiety very differently. The way they react to being alone could come down to genetics or a past experience. Your dog can’t understand everything you tell them, so they won’t understand you’re just going to the grocery store and will be back in an hour. In their mind, they may think you’ve just abandoned them forever and become anxious at the thought of it. Research has indicated herding breeds of dogs are most likely to experience separation anxiety, but it can happen with any dog. Many times the separation anxiety will lead to destructive behavior. Punishing your dog may seem like the best thing to do, but it’s often not and can lead to more destructive behavior in the future.

Riding In The Car

Believe it or not, not all dogs enjoy riding in cars with their heads sticking out of the window. The movement, bumps, turns and road noise can lead to anxiety in some dogs, and even motion sickness at times. There are many different ways to help your dog when riding in the car, such as not feeding them right before a car ride, putting them in a crate to provide a sense of comfort, giving them anti-anxiety medication and more. Most dogs will get used to car rides after a while, but it may take some time.

Getting Out Of Their Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit. So when you establish a routine with them and then change it suddenly, the amount of anxiety they experience could be much more than you’d ever think. Simply moving your dog’s food bowl from one room to another may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s this type of routine change that can create some anxiety in your dog.

Most of the time it’s easy to tell when your dog is anxious when their routine has been changed. Some dogs will be more clingy to you, while others will just sit there and watch your every move as they try to figure out what’s going on. This anxiety is especially present when you’re moving to a new home, rearranging furniture in the home or making other major changes. As long as a new norm is created, then your dog’s anxiety should subside and they’ll accept the new routine.

Dogs are funny creatures, and it’s sometimes difficult for pet owners to predict their behavior. Even after owning a dog for many years, a pet owner may be surprised at a particular behavior. Like humans, a dog’s personality can change over time. Thunderstorms may not have affected your dog in the past, but that could change as they get older. While it’s challenging for pet owners to understand their dog’s behavior, the main thing is to recognize different behaviors and provide as much comfort as possible.

Disciplining your dog for fearful behavior isn’t always the best answer. While most of the time your love and comfort will eventually help your dog feel less anxious, sometimes dogs have a hard time getting over it. Working with a dog behaviorist or a trainer can help you identify certain things you may be missing and assist you in helping your dog in the process.

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