My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

Frightened Dog

I have a 1 1/2 year old Basenji. She is scared of EVERYTHING ! She gets scared of the wind blowing, sounds, people, leaves, lint, inanimate objects, ETC. She doesn't urinate everywhere, but if it is bad enough, she will have leakage from her anal glands. She will run off and hide, shake, or get all weirded out by pacing back and forth with her tail down looking like she has no idea how to get away. What should I do? It is very frustrating!

Melinda from Houston, TX



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By Stacy Emberson 04/07/2008

Melinda, I would definitely say don't give up - it may take years for the dog to become trusting. My poodle had been abused when I adopted her, and she was terrified of everything, too. It took a long time to get her to trust people, but once she got past her "past", she became quite the dog! Definitely look into getting a crate and putting it in a quiet area where the dog feels secure while you are making noise. If she knows she has a quiet and safe spot she can go to, it should help a lot. I would also talk to a vet about anti-anxiety medications you could give her during storms, or if you have people over.

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By Me (Guest Post) 04/08/2008

I didn't read all of the advice but I'm sure it's excellent. Also consider Rescue Remedy, a holistic calming therapy. I've never had to use it but I've read about many many good experiences. It's harmless & it benefits the dogs greatly. I've had abused dogs & it can take yrs. but like everyone says they eventually come around to be wonderful dogs. There is no time limit because every dog is different. Just be there & let them be themselves & take their own sweet time working through it.

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By (Guest Post) 04/08/2008

Hi there, I have had a female basenji for 5 years, but I have not had the trouble that you speak of. My basenji has been a handfull though so I can relate to your problem from that context. The first thing that came to my mind regarding the urination is to look into Fanconi disease, you would need to do a websearch on it to find out more. But the getting scared part almost sounds to me like your dog is high strung like most basenjis. And a good "cure" for that is to make sure that they get at minimum a 30 minute walk everyday. You would be surprised at how much a long walk each day helps a very wide variety of problems that seemingly have no relationship to something as simple as exercise. The lack of exercise can cause a dog to behave "neurotically". Lastly if you haven't seen the cable tv show The Dog Whisperer, it would be a good idea to watch his shows because he is excellant at helping dogs and their owners with problems similar to yours not to mention a host of other problems. He also has a book out if you can't find the tv show, his name is Cesar Millan. Hope that helps. Cary

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By Tracey (Guest Post) 04/09/2008

I would definitely discuss the situation with your vet. They do sometimes prescribe anti-anxiety meds for dogs, and this would probably help. You also probably have some dog "behaviorists" in Houston, and they deal more with psychological issues. (doggy shrinks)
I give one of my dogs a product from Drs.Foster and Smith catalog (also have a website) called "Ultra Calm Biscuits". It is an herbal blend, shaped like a dog treat. It really takes "the edge off." But my dog is old and just recently suffers from anxiety. Since your dog is so young, you should probably try to treat the source of the behavior first, rather than just medicating the symptoms. Good luck! I am sure it can be helped.

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By Melinda (Guest Post) 04/10/2008

Thank you to everyone for your advice. I hope i can find something that will help. Thanks :-)

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By Beth 25 1,120 04/10/2008

One thing you shouldn't do is coddle her when she is scared. Then you are rewarding the wrong behavior and it is more likely to continue. Good luck!

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By Krazytoo (Guest Post) 10/03/2008

I have a 10 year old Basenji who has always been afraid of every little noise as well - especially children. But, just recently, he started acting like he's seeing things and has gone to hiding behind a plant or behind the couch. Stays there all day except to eat and go do his business. Now that I see this, I'm wondering if it's a Basenji thing?

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By atreestump (Guest Post) 11/09/2008

I have a 2 year old maltese poodle with the same problem. the wind blows she runs for cover. I have to carry her inside because she won't go near the trash can. I tested that and she stayed in the entrance of the house not moving near the trash can for a half hour before I got her.. She'll still bark when she thinks she hears someone at the front door so I'm sure she's not really bad off. but it's kind of frustrating listening to her run off and hide every time I turn on the tv.

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By Billy (Guest Post) 11/09/2008

I'm reading this and I think of my dog Mandy. She is just the same I tried opening a can one time with a manual can opener and she was at my feet. the second she heard the pop she ran away horrified I'm sure she would have gone under the bed if she wasn't afraid of it.. lol. I opened a comic book once and I didn't see her for a few hours until I went and got her from her crate it's like her safe zone or something.

She won't eat regular dog food I have to feed her what I eat or else she runs away I brought home some dry food for her and she started shaking uncontrollably when I poured it into her bowl. She was an abused dog, also.

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By Hannah (Guest Post) 11/18/2008

I have a 12 week old Australian Shepperd and he is the same way. He just got the courage to smell a tennis ball for the first time today who knows when he will actually play with one. If you walk into the room he runs and hides. Every little thing scares him. Any fast movement or any movement towards her she runs. You have to wait till she comes to you or you cant get near her. She truly is afraid of everything.

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By Shanda (Guest Post) 12/23/2008

Well I have a 1 yr. old Bull Mastiff. It's quite the thing to see this massive dog run away from people and especially children all the time. I just don't know what to do. I want him to be able to know what's safe from what's not. Anyway if anyone has anymore advice I would love to hear.

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By MJ 3 57 07/02/2010

I heard on NPR, "Calling All Pets" that there is a dog and.or cat pheromone that you plug into your electric socket like a night light. It releases the calming pheromone. (included is a web site info)I would give this a try. "What Good Are Pheromones to Me and My Pet?"
Certain pheromones secreted by dogs, cats and horses are calming. Some of these pheromones are the type secreted by lactating mothers. These pheromones help the babies feel content, secure and safe. In addition, some calming pheromones help animals recognize familiar places. As a group, pheromones that have a calming effect on animals are referred to as "appeasing" pheromones. Scientists have created synthetic versions of these appeasing pheromones for use as treatments to help pets deal with anxiety and fear. The advantages of using pheromones are that they're not sedatives and haven't been found to cause dangerous side effects. Pet guardians don't need a prescription to obtain them for their pets. However, the use of any chemical affecting your pet should be approved by his veterinarian before you use it.

There have been a number of studies evaluating the effectiveness of synthetic pheromones in treating behavior problems in companion animals. The results of these studies indicate that commercially available synthetic pheromones can reduce anxiety in many pets.
Check with your vet or Google it online.

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By munckin26 1 03/03/2013

I have a three year old brittany spaniel/English setter. My step sister had a son and we baby sit him every once and a while. But when Carson which will be one in a couple weeks, comes near my dog the dog bolts and some times he growls at him. Every once in a while the dog will start to shake. We really want to know what's wrong and why he can't just get along the first time.

It had happened Carson went up to the dog and the dog growled at him. So my dad yelled at the dog and ever since the dog will bolt away from him. The dog can't even look at Carson. Please help.

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Here are questions related to My Dog Is Afraid of Everything.

Question: Older Dog With Severe Anxiety Issues

Closeup of older dog.I have a 16 yr old dog that has always had anxiety issues. Lately it is out of control. I have a huge lawn for him to run and play in. I have always been able to just let him out without supervision. (He is way to scared to go anywhere.) He just runs around the house which has always been good exercise for him. He actually has a path.

Lately he will not go outside, I have to drag him out with a leash. When outside he runs around the house to all of the doors ripping the molding off, chewing the door knobs, and jumping up and scratching the doors destroying them. He has torn all of the rubber molding off, so there are holes in the bottom of the doors. I am so afraid he is going to break the sliding glass window. I have tried blocking the doors with things, but he just destroys the stuff. His ultimate goal is to get back in the house. Even when I am outside with him he just walks at my feet tripping me.

While inside he just paces back and forth causing him to breathe heavily so he throws up all over. He has started peeing and pooping in the house because he hates going out. At night he sleeps on the floor in my room (on his $150 memory foam bed). All night he keeps me up running around the room panting and acting as if something is spooking him. If I lock him out of the room he destroys the door to get back in.

I have had him since a puppy. He has never been abused. I do have a crate that I keep him in when I leave. Lately it is the only place he can be because he is making me mental. I don't want to constantly leave him in there what should I do?


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By MaggieM [4] 09/09/2012

Your veterinarian would know the answer to this or at least give him some calming medicine. Since he never destroyed anything before and he is constantly underfoot and peeing and pooing in the house and because of his age, it sounds like he is nearing the end of his life. Please take him to the vet.

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Question: Caring for an Unsocialized Frightened Dog

I took on a friend's female Bishon who is 2 years old. They bred dogs and she was one of their breeding dogs, but they had not bred her yet. They were getting older and need to get rid of the animals.

She had very little human contact so they were not able to sell her. They were going to take her to the pound so I asked if I could have her. The first week was a nightmare. She wouldn't come near me and hid in the bushes, rain, shine, or cold. Little by little I got her to come in the house. It has been about six months and she stays in the house most of the time. She won't let me touch her except when she is in her bed and I can pet her. She will run up to me, but never closer than arms length. When she is outside she runs around in circles. She will stand in the living room growling for no reason at all. I was able to pick her up when some friends were here (I had to get her in the bedroom in her bed before I could pick her up).

I took her into where they were and was going to show my friend how she was licking her self raw on her bottom. Well she did everything she could to get down and she pooped she was so scared and I let her down because she was way too strong for me. To get her to come into the house or a room I have to step away and then close the door after her. She will run around for hours.

We took her out with my friend's other dogs to run in the pasture and she stayed up by the fence and ran up and down it and never came to be with the other dogs. In the car she is terrified. I had her clipped and they said she was scared, but other than that she was OK. My friend took her for a walk with her other dogs, all on a leash, and at first Daisy was fine and then out of the blue she went wild. She wasn't sure what to do, but try and calm her down and Daisy bit her. So she just kept walking and she felt the lead getting strange and looked and she was dragging Daisy so she picked her up and carried her the rest of the way.

My friend keeps saying she is mentally damaged. I have been giving her magnesium, but it only makes her sleepy in the day and freaky at night. Can anyone tell me if they have ever heard of this before and is there hope for my Daisy?

By Karen MC

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By Lizzyanny [9] 05/09/2012

Do be careful with the magnesium supplement. It will give your dog cramps and diarrhea. I do not know what amount you are giving her, but 40 to 80 milligrams is a laxative dose for an adult human. Bless you for giving Daisy a 2nd chance. I hope things work out.

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Question: Dog is Scared of Everything

How to break a dog from being scared of everything!

By MShearron from Nashville

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By Frugal Sunnie [11] 10/11/2012

First thing to do is learn a new pet vocabulary that doesn't include the word 'break'. Believe it or not, using words like 'break' in relation to training a pet can set up a mindset that uses fear to train, and since you are hoping to help your dog adjust to things that frighten him, fear is probably going to be counter-productive.

Right then, on to helping your little guy...

Is he a pure-bred dog, and if yes, where did you get him? It's possible that he is the result of poor breeding practices and either has some neurological problems that cause him to 'startle' easily, or he suffered abuse before becoming part of your family.

Is he a rescue? Even more likely he suffered some abuse.

Have him examined by a good canine vet to be sure he doesn't have physiological problems that can be alleviated with medication, improperly healed fractures or other injuries from past abuse. A canine vet is one who specialises in canine care and should be able to perform an exam that will answer those questions, and will also be able to advise on ways to help your little guy overcome his fears.

One especially successful assist to the process is to provide your dog with a 'safe place' he knows is his alone and is somewhere he can go to take a time out from the upsetting stimuli. Wire crates work well if you place it somewhere there is no household traffic, like a bedroom or study used by his favourite person. Drape a blanket over the crate to create a dark, warm, private spot-he'll instinctively see this as a 'den' and will retreat to it when ever he is needing some physical and emotional space.

By now you surely have a feel for the things that frighten him-doorbells, loud voices, too many people at one time, pots and pans clanking, etc. Know what upsets him, and remove him to the crate if you are going to be unable to control those stimuli.

Put him in the crate but don't latch the crate, close the door to the room the crate is in-this will give him a sense of control (he can get out of the crate if he wants to) and also help him to trust you that you will protect him from the things that frighten him without 'punishing' him for being afraid by locking him up.

Gradually bring the crate closer to the areas where the frightening events occur. Speak calmly and matter of factly whenever the frightening events occur as you move him to the crate so that he understands you are in control and can protect him from the scary stuff.

It will take a lot of time and patience on your part, and the part of any household members. But the effort is well worth it. Back in the mid-seventies I rescued a young dog (about four months old at the time) who had been badly abused; it took nearly a year to help her but that hard work on our part (and her's, imagine how hard it is for a dog to confront and overcome fear must be!) paid off.

She lived another 15 years and was a very important member of our family, teaching both my children to walk by patiently permitting them to clutch onto her thick fur and then slowly walking them around the house. She was also bar none the best watch dog we ever had, preventing two burglaries over the 15 years she was with us.

Check your library and the Internet for books on helping a dog overcome debilitating fear, and remember, the word 'break' is no longer a part of your animal companionship vocabulary:)

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Question: Pug is Afraid of TV

I have a Pug that's almost 4 years old. All of a sudden when she was standing in front of the TV, something flashed on the screen when it changed scenes and she ran behind the couch and now she won't come in the room when the TV is on. She has always accompanied us in the evening and sat beside us until bedtime. We can't coax her to come sit by us at all now. Any suggestions? She's never been abused and is a very spoiled dog. Thanks.

By Larry H. from Yuba City, CA

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Most Recent Answer

By ThePetTeacher [1] 03/04/2012

You need to associate the TV on with rewarding experiences for your pup. First, get some really good treat - something that your dog gets ONLY while doing this exercise. I suggest you use Natural Balance dog meat rolls or Pet Botanics (only at PetsMart) meat rolls. I'm a dog trainer and use these meat rolls for my training rewards. Cut a portion of the roll into small pea-size treats, a small bag full, be sure to refrigerate the roll and the pieces.

Carry your dog into the room (no treats yet), sit on the floor with her while you hold a treat in front of her nose, turn on the TV at the same time you give her the treat. Leave the TV on while you give her three more treats (1 treat every couple of seconds) and then turn off the TV. Repeat this step five times and then leave the room the last time you turn off the TV.

Repeat this exercise at least 2x/day with at least 2 hours between each exercise repetition, for at least 2 days OR until your dog shows NO fear when you reach to turn on the TV. The purpose of this is to teach your dog that turning on the TV results in her getting very special treats.

Once your dog is calm when you turn on the TV, you will repeat this exercise but this time give her one minute of treats. Not 60 treats, but at least 10, so that she learns the longer the TV is on, the more treats she gets. Every time you feed her a treat say, "Let's watch TV!" Repeat this exercise several times each day for three days.

Note: Be sure to make the treats a portion of her daily food allotment so You don't worry about her gaining weight and give her too few rewards. There is no reason for a dog to gain weight from meat roll treats; just make them a part of her overall food plan for the day.

Step 3 is to say to your dog, "Let's watch TV" and she should come running to the area you've been practicing. When she gets to you, give her a reward, turn on the TV and give her random rewards until the next commercial comes on. Then stop the rewards, let the TV run, and walk out of the room until the commercials are done. Then return to the room saying "let's watch TV", and repeat the random rewards until the next commercial.

Step 4 is to say "let's watch TV", go to your chair or sofa, give her random rewards the entire time the show is on. As the days go by, you'll be able to space out the amount of time between these rewards until you can simply give her a stuffed Kong or special bone when you start watching TV and that will be the end of the issue.

Words to the wise - do NOT rush this process or you'll only end up shooting yourself in the foot. Do NOT progress to the next step until she shows no fear at the current step. Never put her on a leash, wrap her in a blanket or hold her in your arms because she'll feel trapped and that only intensify her fear. Use a very special treat that she gets only for this exercise - do not use for other training purposes until she has successfully overcome this fear issue. And dry biscuits or her dry food won't cut it; use the meat roll or special cheese or whatever she thinks is the best reward in the world. This food reward is meant to please her, not to please you. Have fun while doing this exercise; laugh, play, keep it light. She needs to know that you think this a fun exercise not a pain for you to do to help her. Dogs are expert body language interpreters and if you sigh, grimace, or show frustration your dog will know it and you will be intensifying her fear.
Finally - Be sure that she doesn't have any peripheral eye issues or hearing issues that may have contributed to her fear of whatever happened on the screen.

Good luck! You and your sweet Pug can soon become good friends with the TV again!

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