It’s often said that dogs are social animals, so what happens if your little pup is withdrawn and feels fear around other dogs? Here are some things to try if the presence of another dog makes your puppy quake in its boots.
If you thought shyness and anxiety were traits only shown in humans, think again. But fear not – it’s perfectly natural for some puppies to be shy of things that they are unfamiliar with, including other dogs. In these instances, where fear is due to the novelty of other dogs, socialisation is vital. Socialisation involves exposing your puppy to all sorts of individuals, animals and situations, and fostering positive interactions during the early months of their life. One of the best ways to socialise your puppy is at puppy school. Remember, it’s always easier to prevent fear than it is to treat it, so the importance of socialisation shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Early positive experiences are vital for the development of a happy confident dog,” says Dr. Adam Sternberg, Regional Clinical Director for Greencross Vets, who are our puppy school partners. “Socialisation and communication skills are developed in the early months of your puppy’s life. These early life experiences influence how your puppy will play, communicate and learn as they develop into an adult dog.”
Why is my puppy scared of other dogs?
There are various reasons your puppy may be afraid of other dogs, and inadequate socialisation is one of the easiest to manage. In addition, some breeds of dog may be genetically predisposed to be more timid. Even if they’ve had exposure to different people and they are more likely to be afraid because of their genetic makeup. The best thing you can do for your puppy is to not punish them for their shy behaviour, but provide them with opportunities where they feel safe to come out of their shell. It’s also possible that your puppy has experienced something traumatic with another dog. Possibly they were attacked or threatened, making them anxious whenever they are around other dogs.
Signs your puppy is afraid
- Hiding behind your legs or furniture
- Urinating or defecating
- Defensive aggression – growling, biting, barking
Management and treatment of your puppy’s fear
While you help your puppy to overcome their fear of other dogs, it’s important that they trust you – so be careful not to push them too far and trigger them. One of the best treatment methods for your puppy is desensitisation. This involves gradually exposing your puppy to other dogs, and associating the exposure with positive feedback – like a delicious treat or their favourite toy. Desensitisation can be difficult to carry out, and you may require the assistance of a professional. In severe cases your puppy may be prescribed anti-anxiety medication by your vet in conjunction with desensitisation treatment. However, this is quite rare.
In most cases, puppy school easily helps puppies to adjust to their new family and become happy, confident dogs. “As Petbarn and Greencross Vets’ Puppy School is over a four to five week period, we get to support puppies and build their confidence week by week,” says Dr. Adam. “By graduation we typically see a happy, confident and social puppy with owners who understand what their puppy is feeling and how to respond.”