Does Your Dog Have Any Phobias?

September 2, 2011  

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, we asked our Facebook fans, Do your dogs have any phobias (like thunder or car rides)? If so, how do you help them to cope with their fears?

Many dogs had common fears like thunder, loud noises and the vet, but there were some that were afraid of plastic bags, squeaky toys and of all things…lobsters! Thanks everyone for sharing your helpful tips.

Photos by Melissa Lipani

My dog is terrified of thunder…I put his Thundershirt on him and put on the music “Through a Dog’s Ears” which really help him calm down!

~ Ginger Yates

My dog hates being alone. I originally didn’t want to have a crate because she was abused in one when she was a pup. But I eventually found out that she loves her crate. Now I only crate her if the cat isn’t around to keep her company. I found that if she has another friend, like our cat, in the house with her she’s fine.

~ April Dooley

Dean fears smokers (in her previous life she was burned with a cigarette). I carry beef jerky, and if we come across nice people who happen to smell like smoke, I have them give her a treat. It’s slow going, but we’re making progress. I think overcoming fears for dogs or people is a long, slow process.

~ Tess Purvis

My Lab/pit mix Bronx hates thunder. They only way he feels safe is if we spoon under the blanket, so that’s what we do. Anything for my baby!

~ Heather Hilton

Over the 4th of July weekend, Roxy was scared of fireworks. I was driving home from work, 30 minute drive, and you could hear the fireworks go off while driving. I turned up the music more (country music keeps her calm) and she was much better. She doesn’t like the sound of it. But she was fascinated at watching the lights go up in the sky. Country music is Roxy’s best friend!

~ Wendy Yang

My blue bully-girl, Twinkle Toes, is frightened by the sound of fireworks. She comforts and calms herself by guarding my dad, who has Alzheimer’s.

~ Kori Neilsen

Franco is fearful of object brought towards him, being enclosed in tight spaces, and the vet. For the objects and vets we use desensitization to help him. Every time he acts calm, we treat him. Every time he touches a new object he gets treated. I also use the Thundershirt when new people come into the house and for his hyperactivity/anxiety.

~ Kaitlyn Mikush

My pittie Charlie is terrified of the vacuum. We just let him outside when we use it!

~ Christine Ostrowski Schroepfer

My rescue dog has a fear of the beep a smoke detector emits. Since I found him, I have no idea where that fear came from. Even if he hears one on TV he tries to leave the house, scratches up doors, or hides upstairs for hours. We’ve been staying with a family member for a couple weeks and that family member has a burglar system that beeps when doors open. He freaked at first but I started giving him rewards when the beep went off and lo and behold he’s gotten better! A reward goes a long way quite often!

~ Gemma Zanowski

My dog Elliott is terrified of horse flies (those big mosquitoes). He starts to shake, chase his tail and wants me to carry him. Thankfully he’s only 22 pounds.

~ Meaghan Michaud

Our pibble was freaked by skateboards, so over several nights we worked on tricks (to get his mind off the scary thing on the floor) and when he was focused my hubby would move the skateboard closer to him, while I moved closer to it from another direction all the while treats treats treats! On the second night he was eating treats right off of it! He was a little freaked over fireworks, but we had a puppy party with piles of treats to get his mind off it and we do the same with thunderstorms.

~ Bernie Watts

My pit mix Mavis is scared of thunder and lightning. She has chewed her way through doors to escape it. She hears it before I do and as soon as she gets that look in her eye, she has a special crate in the sun room that she goes in. I cover it so she will not see the lightning and I turn on the music to drown out the thunder.

~ Christine Pitcher

My pitty Tiglet is terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks. She hid in her crate for most of Irene. She won’t let us “coddle” her, but she will try to sit in your lap if it gets too intense. As far as how we deal with it, we walk and walk and walk and then walk some more. We have found that a worn out Tiglet is much calmer for those freaky situations that scare her. The night before Irene we walked for two hours. We do the same thing for the 4th of July as well. As she has gotten older she has learned how to deal better, but it’s still management on our part.

~ Anjiey Aintakinnoshytnomo Lowe

It turns out that our “big vicious pit bull” is afraid of lobsters!

~ Holly Alessi

Our 5-year-old APBT is afraid of arguments! She’s a tough girl and raised in our home since she was 6 weeks old. No history of abuse, inside dog, etc. But we have to have any “discussions” in our family in calm voices or she will slink off under the guest room bed before you realize it! Breaks your heart, but she is really sensitive to that sort of tension. It’s adorably sad.

~ Sarah Richards

Loud noises, even if it’s in the distance. Gunshots, thunder, construction noises, etc. If we’re home he stays close to me and I pet him or just lay my hand on him and relax.

~ Samuel Sheets

My girl Polar is afraid of thunderstorms and other loud noises. Her noise phobia along with severe separation anxiety has been challenging but we keep working with her and see improvements everyday. One thing that has helped was getting her used to her crate and making sure only good things were associated with her crate (like yummy treats, peanut butter and toys). After that, we were able to get her in her crate when it was storming. Then we had “thunderstorm” parties and she got plenty of hotdogs for not paying attention to the loud noise and just relaxing. We never reward her for her anxious behaviors, she only got rewards for the things we wanted to see. We still have our days but she has definitely gotten better and considering her past, she’s entitled to a few “bad” days!

~ Marlo Slusarski

When we first brought our pitty home I was surprised at all the things she was terrified of: car rides, umbrellas, chickens, bees, sprinklers, thunder, fireworks, loud neighbors, and crashing noises. She’s all but gotten over most of these fears. But the worst is metal fence gates and metal garage doors, like those industrial doors on shops and warehouses. The first time I discovered this fear we were out walking and some store opened those metal doors. She jumped 3 feet in the air and almost knocked me over. She was shaking so bad she couldn’t walk and just cowered by my legs. Over the last three years we’ve been really working on it and she has gotten much better, even thought the clatter still startles her.

~ Tanaya Burnham-Delorey

Our dog is afraid of my daughter’s feet moving under the blankets on the bed. She’s not afraid of anyone else’s feet…just my daughter’s. My daughter solves it by sleeping with her feet hanging out!

~ Cathy Becker Gonzalez

My Bailey has the normal fears of thunder and fireworks. He used to chew the house apart but is getting better now. However, he is terrified of sweepers, the Swiffer, the case for my reading glasses, hair “claws”, and every stupid inflatable (moving) yard decoration. Halloween is a bad time for us to take walks!

~ Ashley Mollenkamp

Goliath is afraid of large sculptures, deodorant, squeaky toys, balloons, plastic dog food bowls (only plastic ones), the iron, water, the blow dryer, the dark and a few other weird things that I can’t think of right now.

~ Jen Chess

My Doberman was afraid of thunder and would hide in my walk-in closet. I used to sit in there with her until the storm was over.

~ Stephanie Apostoleres

My AmStaff Jamie is petrified of thunder, gun shots and fireworks. I have to admit this is my fault for taking her to a fireworks show when she was 6 months old. We received a Thundershirt two days ago and last night had a horrible lightning/thunderstorm that lasted for hours. Although we both had our doubts, her stress level was obviously lower than normal. She even opted to join us outside on the deck while we watched the storm in the distance. Dice our other Am Staff doesn’t like guns (the actual gun), even if someone makes the standard ‘finger gun’ and goes bang he gets upset and spins. Kind of worries me how he was exposed to that prior to his rescue, but now we avoid those situations.

~ Lori Klimas Burkett

Zeke fears get his nails cut! He curls up in fetal position!

~ Rick Abdella

The vet. Yikes! Just tried to take Lola to a new vet today: she whimpered and whined in the waiting room, grumbled in the exam room and positively yowled whenever the vet so much as touched her. Needless to say, we were sent home with a sedative and will need to try again next week.

~ Angelique Weger

Bumble, my APBT, does not react very well to thunderstorms, fireworks, loud noises, or any type of metal clanging. During storms and fireworks I put on his Thundershirt, and play white noise, on a repeating loop, in the background. He loves his Thundershirt, which in our house is called the Thunder-vest. When it starts storming, I will get out his thunder-vest…I kind of make a big production about it, making silly noises, giving him extra attention. He is familiar with our routine, and seems calmer afterward. I also do some deep-breathing with him and create a safe space where he can “hide.” It is usually under the table, partially covered by a blanket. Lastly, I make sure he has a frozen, peanut butter filled bone to chew on to provide some distraction.

~ Jamie Parker

My D’Argo is afraid of the light from a flashlight. Not the flashlight itself, just the light that comes out of one.

~ Beth Adams-Brooking

Juno had many, many fears as a puppy. I think one of the biggest scares she ever has was her first Halloween. We were on our walk and Juno got very scared by a yard decoration! I just stayed calm and didn’t force her to go near it. I walk over to the thing slowly and touched it. She looked at me with eyes so big, like she was shocked I wasn’t afraid. I asked her if she wanted to smell it and she slowly came over to investigate and then she was no longer afraid of it! So, that is what I do when ever we come across scary things: I go over and touch it and when she sees I’m ok, she goes over and smells it. We conquered many fears this way. I am so proud of my girl ♥

~ Robine Yvonne France

When I first got my Australian cattle dog pup, I was going to make sure she wasn’t afraid of thunderstorms like my last dog had been. So every time it rained, thundered, etc., we would play: toss the ball, run around, whatever, inside and made it a fun time. To this day, she will lay with her head on the windowsill during a thunderstorm and couldn’t care less about the weather outside!!

~ Karen Kratosky Spidle

Our pit bull had a fear of wooden and tile floors in someone’s home we were visiting for Fourth of July. It took a lot of coaxing and reassuring to even get her in the door, and then away from the door. Eventually, we just left her stand worriedly while her buddy dog crossed back and forth with us without so much as worry. Ziggy (the pit) realized that if she wanted to be with her family, she’d have to walk and she did! She had a blast the rest of the weekend!

~ Kristin Krieger

We have a pit mix we got 6 months ago, vet estimates she’s about 6 years old. She’s terrified of thunderstorms, fireworks, and kids on bikes. We built a cave in the hallway, with a soft comforter on the floor, blanket over the top, narrow entranceway. She does better with this than she did with the crate (which we also covered to block out the lightning flashes from the windows).

~ Jeanne Anderson

Evan doesn’t like plastic bags. So I leave the bags wadded up in my pocket, so they don’t make noise, at least until I need them. And recently I have been leaving one hanging on the kitchen chair just to get him more used to them. Now that he has had months of watching me pull the plastic bag out only to pick up his poo, he seems to kind of understand they won’t hurt him. He still won’t look at one directly though!

~ Michelle Hunt

When something comes up that frightens Linken (like lightning and thunder), I start play time with his favorite toy. When he’s playing and not focused on the storm, he gets tons of love and treats. In the beginning, if he was pressed against my leg or wouldn’t leave my side, he didn’t get the reinforcement of his fear with my attention.

~ Dagmar Lanz

This worked on Sophia and Azula this last 4th of July: soothing classical music. Play it for them and they will calm down!

~ Mina Rahim

My youngest pittie, Chance, now 10, is afraid of thunder. He’s deaf now and cannot hear it, so these days thunder doesn’t bother him. Before he was deaf, I would try not to coddle him during thunderstorms. I tried putting the volume up higher on TV, but that seemed to aggravate the fear. So, I’d do massages and start playing with him with a ball or a tug toy, or do some simple training and give him really high quality treats when he did well. That way he’d associate thunder with fun stuff. I also tried Rescue Remedy which helped a bit also. He enjoyed the massages, especially with deep pressure, squeezes, and strong hugs, so I think the Thundershirt would work well. I’ve worked with individuals with autism for about 17 years and can say that pressure really worked to calm them when they were having trouble. They have weighted vests and it is amazing how individuals can relax with it on!

~ Tammy Weston Graves

Jada, my 8th pit mix, hates thunder/lightning and fireworks. She will hide in the bathtub until it’s all over. My foster dog is afraid of not finding his forever home.

~ Heidi Luneau

My Boston has extreme thunderstorm anxiety. I use to have to give her sedatives, which I hated, but then I came cross a new product called Composure. It’s all natural and not a sedative, and it works great for her! I am a vet tech and a lot of our clients also say the Thundershirt works well for their pets with thunderstorm, firework, and separation anxiety.

~ Keleigh Lyons

In regards to the Thundershirt, our PB wears his out in public because of all the stimulation. He seemed to be okay with it on, although I don’t know if I saw a huge difference. There are just so many variables and each dog will react differently to different situations, you know? We did see a bit of help with our Puggle, who has many issues. He was terribly uncooperative at the vet, so the next year I brought him in the Thundershirt wrap and he didn’t have to be muzzled! I attribute that to desensitizing him, in addition to the wrap.

~ Amanda Taylor

One of our rescues is so petrified of being groomed that he has to be sedated at the vet’s office and groomed by one of the techs there! We don’t know his history so therefore, we have not been able to get him groomed any other way. He actually went into shock twice when we tried to groom him. Therefore, this is the safest way, He’s a Bichi-Poo so you know how their ‘tude can be as it is!

~ Patricia Elzinga-Moschella

My dog is terrified of thunder storms. So I use a lavender calming spray and something called a Thundershirt. It’s a stretchy but tight sweatshirt that swaddles the dog. That is usually enough but for really bad ones like a hurricane we add “Happy Traveler” an herbal supplement with Valerian root and chamomile in it to the mix.

~ Sarah Beckett Thrower

I was so scared of people when my parents adopted me as a puppy! I use to run away and hide in the corner! They enrolled me in classes and socialized me a lot! I began to notice that people weren’t so bad and if I got close enough, they would even give me a treat. Now I have overcome my fear so much that I work with children as a therapy dog. I still have my times when I get scared (mostly with loud noises), but Mama says it’s always good to practice with my socialization! It is important for us pitties!

~ Rocco The Therapy Pit Bull

I’ve adopted two abused dogs, both very fearful. Maple was the most traumatized and had many fears, the most interesting of which was silver-colored metal, including tinny metallic sounds such as aluminum cans clanking. She was confined by a hoarder in a hog barn with an aggressive dog, so I think that was the reason. She was afraid not only of aluminum siding and aluminum picnic tables, but also metal signs, the sound of metal against the backyard fence, the sound of her leash against the covered swing, and even my Mac laptop. I helped her with her fear by establishing trust, by small doses of safe exposure, and time. Regarding the laptop, I played YouTube videos of howling dogs, meowing cats, little puppies, and “Dog-Relaxing Music.” She also seemed comforted with a sheepskin car seat cover that I laid over her when she was scared, as if it were her “blankie.”

~ Randi Simon-Serey

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6 Responses to “Does Your Dog Have Any Phobias?”
  1. AnnColeman says:

    Oh, pit bulls and loud noises. The two will never mix well, will they?

  2. ktiounsometimesy says:

    My pit bull Peaches is afraid of thunder, fireworks, plastic bags snapping in the wind, and [insert sudden loud noise here]. She is also weirdly afraid of water – everything from baths to having her water bowl set in front of her! And she’s heartbreakingly afraid of rolled up newspapers or magazines, which may be related to her pre-rescue past. She gets especially freaked out when she sees an adult male swatting at flies with a rolled up newspaper. Usually kisses, puppy treats, and allowing her to hide under my bed for a bit helps.

  3. pittymom says:

    My pitbull Uno is afraid of small animals. I let him out when the rain stopped some this weekend during tropical storm Lee. He usually comes right in because he hates the rain. I couldn’t get him in which was strange. I walked out to get him. He was jumping in fear at what I thought was a frog. Once I got closer I realized it was a newborn squirrel. It’s eyes weren’t even opened yet. We brought it in and bottle fed it some kitten milk. The one good thing about his fear is that he saved it’s life. I don’t think it would have made it very long out there.

  4. StubbyDog says:

    @pittymom Aw Uno, you saved a baby squirrel. 🙂

  5. NicholeRyanStaib says:

    my apbt alex was absolutely terrified of the slick tile and linolium floors and the stairs when we brought him home over 6 yrs ago. it took almost a full month for him to make it up the stairs to sleep in our room at night. he’s still afraid of the floors, but we have a padded mat in front of the sink in the kitchen, and as long as he can stay on that, he’s fine.

  6. wow so cute dogs. I like this post.