What Everyday Objects Scare Your Dogs?

April 19, 2013  

Answers to our Community Question of the Week

We all know dogs that have what are (to us) irrational reactions to everyday objects and stimuli, and so we asked our Facebook friends, “Does your dog have things that he is always afraid of, no matter how much work you’ve done with him? Does she still startle at blowing leaves, ambulances, or people with shopping bags? How do you handle these doggy idiosyncrasies when they come up?”

Desensitization, advice from behaviorists and trainers, and careful advance planning are some of the ways that we help our pups deal with things that scare them. Thanks everyone for sharing.

My babies are scared to death of my cat Smokie. Not the other two kitties, just her. ~ Arika Brown

Mine is scared of busses and trucks; I just stop to pet and reassure her until they pass. It goes without saying that I try to walk her on quieter streets. ~ Rhonda Shore

My dog is afraid of the text message alert on my cell phone. I have changed the tone several times, even changing it to wildlife sounds (ducks quacking), or setting it to vibrate only…She still shakes, shivers and hides whenever it alerts or vibrates. I soothe as best as I can, but I have yet to find a good solution. ~ LauraJean Krueger

My Madison is afraid of all sorts of noises. Help. ~ Jonna JoJo Hedengran

Grandpa is afraid of his farts and thunder. For the latter, I use the sweater made for that purpose and it helps. For the former, I simply tell him it is ok with an ear scratch. He seems, at about age 10, to becoming less tense about them. ~ Kathleen Reaves

The vacuum when running – just let him do figure eights around me while vacuuming. Great workout for him. ~ Kathrina James

Mac isn’t afraid of anything, which is an issue in itself! He’s occasionally startled by random new things such as a broom or a balloon, but after a few minutes he’s ready to play with whatever the offending object is! ~ Sarah DuBois

Pearl (white pit bull mix rescue) is extremely afraid of the squeaker toy inside of the no-stuffing dog toys. Luckily, Azra (Blue rescue) is more than happy to come to Pearl’s aid and destroy the menacing noisemaker. Afterwards, Azra has no interest in the toy and Pearl can’t wait to claim it as her own. ~ Stuart Paul

My pit bull/mastiff is petrified of the broom. It fell on him once and he’s been fearful of it ever since. When I sweep, I crate him with a stuffed bone so he has an outlet for his stress and feels safe. ~ Rachel Bowman

I have four dogs, they are all afraid of the vacuum except for the deaf male. Since getting hardwood floors I try to sweep more than vacuum, otherwise there isn’t really much I can do to help. ~ Theresa Mergl

Mine are afraid of bicycles. When I hear or see a bicyclist, I make my dogs sit on the side of the path/trail/sidewalk/street and reassure them as the cyclist passes us. This helps keep everyone safe. ~ Christy Eve

One of our dogs is scared of flies…not sure what to do with that at all. ~ Jen Ostrow

Halia doesn’t like (not sure if she’s necessarily afraid of) people on ladders. She goes nuts on the few times this has happened. I just tell her it’s okay and try to leave that area as soon as possible. ~ Rebecca Leigh Berk

Buckets. ~ Ari Rachel Field

One of mine hates wigs. If she sees a wig (off someone’s head) she freaks out. Aside from laughing a little I usually just try to distract her with a toy. ~ Kelly Nolan

When Jessie gets freaked out, I massage her neck and if her tail is tucked I lift it out and up for her. I notice that this changes her energy. ~ Janetta Johnson

In a similar way, our trainer suggested spreading out the wrinkles from our baby’s head when stressed! ~ Andrea Lackey Kutzko

Thunder. ~ Ed Cassidy

Fireworks and thunderstorms. After desensitization therapy failed to work, we now just use Benadryl. Gets him to sleep through the night. ~ Dana Strickland

Having spent most of his life in isolation, Bosco is afraid of everything – crowds, noises, vehicles, sudden movement…you name it. We are working with a behaviorist to increase his exposure to new and different things. The bottom line is to build trust so that he understands that if I’m with him, he has nothing to be afraid of. ~ Cheri Guilbault

Smoke detector battery alert. ~ Nancy Patch

Very many years ago… our neighbors’ dog Buster (yellow Labrador) was terrified by my sister’s pet Gerbils and they knew that! He’d come into our house, walk around the living room and dining room, then when he went into conservatory they’d launch themselves from back of cage and poor Buster retired to the garden with his tail under his legs! ~ Kirsty Gray

Vacuums, people he doesn’t know. Lets out vicious barks, help! ~ Rhonda Hager

My male pit bull is scared of small children. ~ Dessa Arnold

Cypress is afraid of loud noises (thunder, fireworks, etc.) he hides under my desk. Generally I just make sure he has somewhere he can get to “hide” and feel safer, and then I for the most part, ignore the behavior. I don’t want to reward him for being scared. He seems to cope fairly well on his own. ~ Tabitha Riley

Tala is afraid of Coke cans, always has been. ~ April Dooley

Our oldest boy, Joey, is very high-strung, he gets startled easily, is afraid of thunder (of course) and high winds as well as any loud noises outside. When he sees me begin to dust the furniture he runs and hides upstairs because he knows the vacuum cleaner will be making an appearance soon. All of these things are somewhat typical and we try to make sure that we are sensitive to his feelings. There is one thing, however, that he is afraid of that just puzzles us…sneezes. If my husband or I (or even one of his furry siblings) sneezes, he just takes off like a rocket. ~ Gloria Basile

My Reba (who went to the Rainbow Bridge in October at age 16 1/2) was always afraid of thunderstorms. When she was younger, she would hear thunder way off in the distance before I could hear it. She was my “storm barometer.” I, too, would tell her once that all was OK, then largely ignore the behavior so as not to reinforce the fear. It was only in the last year of her life, when her hearing was not so good, that she did not react so much. Only if it was a real close storm and she could feel the boomers. (Interestingly, she did OK during hurricanes. Not so much thunder and lightning during them, only wind and rain.) ~ M.K. Means

Dr. Seuss, 9-year-old pit bull, is afraid of the bathroom. He will enter slowly if prompted by one of the kids or a treat, but shakes and backs out soon after. At bath time, I have to carry him and plop him gently into the water. Once in, he’s totally fine. It’s funny to me because the 3-year-old will walk in and get into the tub herself. ~ Jenn Fleming-Baker

Billy balks and walks around any type of grating or metal plate in the sidewalk. Large wheelie bins. Orange roadwork cones. We just go around them or slow down. He can’t stand having his bum sniffed by another dog. Fair enough I reckon. ~ Jo Wellesley Smith

My sadly missed elderly ESS Water Baby Ben knew no fear – he travelled all over UK by bus and train; even as far as Edinburgh every 2 months or so – being totally adored by the train crew did help! ~ Kirsty Gray

Starla Rose is afraid of fog/smoke. I try to encourage her and walk gently through any visible steam. Sometimes she becomes brave and other times she says, “No.” ~ Elizabeth Schipper

I don’t like the vacuum cleaner and I don’t like fireworks. My buddy Nilla does not mind either. I just run away from the vacuum and try to hide from fireworks. ~ TaTa Himes

Though we have only had him 9 weeks, so we haven’t worked too much yet – Grant is terrified when you hold something in your hand and turn toward him. Like a spatula. A hat. A shoe. Even though he knows us and loves us and we never yell or hit him. We are slowly trying to work on it by putting the things on the floor, letting him check them out at his own pace, and giving lots of praise and treats for being brave. ~ Meghan Longhurst

My sweetheart Brother is afraid of loud noises. I’ve tried to desensitize him with no progress. ~ Janice McElveen

Rosebud used to be terrified of her prong collar, but we put it on the floor with some treats and just took it slowly. We bought it at the suggestion of our trainer, and waited until she was here before we tried it (we wanted to make sure we used it correctly), but when we got it out for the first time, Rosie ducked and hid behind my dad, shaking. Now she loves it, because it means she gets a walk. ~ Margelia Stewart

Fans. Ceiling, floor, oscillating, the one in the humidifier, the ones on drinking fountains, an idling car… Arcadia tries to save me from the vacuum and can eat sitting next to the running dishwasher, but stick a running fan in the room and she either bolts or freezes and shakes like a leaf. She doesn’t like them, but she’s grudgingly accepted the ones in our home. Any place else though and she totally balks. ~ Amy Rever-Oberle

Cavil is afraid of construction signs – the large orange ones at eye level. He also fears statues that look like humans. We encounter them so infrequently that we haven’t had much chance to try to desensitize him. I must admit that watching my 70 pit bull cower in the presence of a garden gnome can be quite humorous at times. ~ Renata Tweedy

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