Why is your dog fearful?

Dogs are fearful of people for several reasons.  There may be a genetic predisposition to fearfulness of people.  Fifty years ago, researchers found that fears of people could have a genetic basis in dogs.  While extra socialization, behavior modification and medications all helped, dogs with these predispositions were never able to completely overcome their fears and behave like normal dogs.

Contrary to what you might think, dogs aren’t inherently accepting of people. Dogs, like many mammals and birds have to learn whom to like and to whom to be fearful.  Most puppies that have good experiences with people during the sensitive period for socialization (4 – 12 weeks) grow up to be friendly to most people.  But if young dogs don’t have consistent contact with a wide variety of people, they are quite likely to be fearful of at least some people and may only be capable of developing strong social bonds with only a few individuals.  Inadequately socialized dogs can become less fearful of people, but it can require a long time and a lot of effort.

Third, traumatic experiences with people at any age can cause some dogs to become fearful of people.  Unpleasant experiences with children can lead dogs to become fearful of them.  Painful or fear-provoking experiences with adult humans who look a certain way, or dress or behave in a particular way can lead dogs to be afraid of anyone with similar characteristics.

Often a fear related problem is caused by a combination of these factors. When we work with fearful dogs, we often never really know what has produced the fearful behavior.   Fortunately, knowing the causes isn’t always necessary to help with the problem.

Early obedience training, playing dog sports such as flyball, agility, or treibball can help these dogs come out of their shell.

Train your dog immediately, private lessons or group lessons, a well trained dog is less likely to have fear based issues.  Training will also provide the needed socialization.

Far Fetched Tales Dog Training offers classes for dogs of any age or skill level select from Private Lessons or Group Lessons

Understanding the body language of the fearful dog.


Far Fetched Tales Dog Training, serving Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, Ponte Vedra, Mandarin, Fleming Island, Orange Park, and St. Augustine.



Pamela Wiltgen