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How To Tell If Your Dog Is Scared

You may think you know when your dog is scared, but in reality, many dog owners miss the signs. There are obviously more apparent signs that your pooch is uncomfortable, for example, they may back away from something. But it’s also important to be aware of more subtle signs. When dogs are scared, they can act out of character. They’re faced with two choices, fight or flight. Or some dogs just freeze on the spot.

If you can pinpoint when your dog is scared or uncomfortable then you can manage their behaviour and not unintentionally stress them out. Dogs say a lot with their body language, just like humans do. But they can’t talk to us and tell us ‘hey, I’m scared, take me out of this situation.’ So, us humans need to be observant and sensitive to how our dogs are feeling.

Here’s how to tell if your dog is scared. There are several signs to watch out for. Your dog could display one, two or a mixture of the following behaviours when they’re scared…

Ears back - dogs will often pin their ears back when they’re unhappy or nervous of something. So keep an eye on those ears, if they’re relaxed and in a normal position then there’s no need to worry. But pinned back ears suggest your pooch is definitely feeling uncomfortable.

Excessive panting - If your dog suddenly starts panting a lot for no apparent reason, then take note, this could be a sign of stress. When dogs are stressed, they start to pant. This is a clear sign your pooch is getting worked up about something.

Licking their lips - It’s true that dogs (and sometimes even humans) lick their lips when they’re hungry occasionally. But dogs also lick their lips when they are scared. Excessive licking means Fido isn’t happy at all. In fact, he’s probably terrified.

Avoidance - This is the classic telltale sign that your dog doesn’t want to be in a situation. They’ll try and escape and avoid coming into contact with whatever they are scared of. Which means no eye contact, and they might even go off and curl up in a ball somewhere.

Tail between legs - Another common sign that your dog is scared is if their tale goes between their legs. They will often tuck their tale right under their belly and make their body low to the ground.

Hackles - Have you ever seen your dog’s hair suddenly spring up on their back? If their hair springs up in one area this is what’s known as ‘their hackles going up’. Dogs do this for all sorts of reasons, not just because they’re scared. They might do it because they’re overly excited or even sexually excited. But if your dog’s hackles go up along with other signs they are scared (e.g. the above behaviours), then it’s probably because they are nervous of something.

Barking - And lastly, a more obvious one, excessive barking. If Fido suddenly barks lots and backs away from something, they’re probably nervous or scared.

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