Dealing With a Scared Dog: What Not To Do

scared dog

Sometimes, things can happen that cause your dog to get scared. How you deal with this is extremely important, because if you don’t deal with it correctly it could get even worse and cause problems.

What happens when a dog gets scared, is their body enters “fight or flight mode” and is filled with adrenaline and other stress hormones. This is an uncomfortable situation for them for many reasons. You want to avoid this happening at all costs because they can potentially react violently if aggravated.

Read on to learn how some actions can make your pets fear worse, even if they might have the best intentions.

Don’t Smother a Scared Dog

It may be your first instinct to run up and smother your frightened pet to try and calm them down. Don’t do this! A fearful dog will get even more stressed if their personal space is invaded.

The best thing to do is to give them some space and not pressure them into anything. You might find they will calm down quicker than you think if they are given space and time to themselves.

Don’t Show Fear Yourself

It’s well known that dogs are pack animals. This means they need a leader, or else they will try to fill this void on their own. A scared dog desperately needs a calm and confident leader.

It’s very important that you fill this role so that your pet can see from your actions that everything will be alright. Dogs learn best by imitating, so give them positive and calm behavior to learn from.

Don’t Show Affection

dog affectionWhen your dog is frightened they don’t need affection, they need a good leader. Affection is a reward, and if a dog is rewarded with hugs and love everytime they get scared, they will begin to associate getting scared with being rewarded.

Dogs don’t have the mental capacity to understand why they should or shouldn’t be scared in certain situations. All they know is that they are being rewarded for being scared. You don’t want to reward them, as they can eventually turn into a skittish pet that is very hard to care for. Simply being calm and collected is enough.

Don’t Make Direct Eye Contact With a Scared Dog

You may have all the best intentions when staring lovingly at your scared pooch, but unfortunately, your pet can see this as a confrontational act.

There are different types of eye contact, and any dog that has been traumatized by previous bad experiences may see your gaze as an attack warning.

You should never look a dog you don’t know in the eye. It is confrontational and can make them get potentially aggressive or scared.

Don’t Make Stressful Situations Worse

stressed dogOften times, when a canine is in a stressful spot there are things which can make the situation worse. Stress multiplication is a common term for this and you want to avoid it at all costs.

When a dog is pushed to the limit they might feel the need to defend themselves and that is when they bite or attack.

Tying in to the first point, you also don’t want to take frightened dogs out of the house for walks or activities. Grooming and playtime can wait until later if your pet is scared. Just give them some time and they should be ok.

What Can You Do To Help a Scared Dog?

  • Below are some things that you can do to lower the stress of the dog and make it less scared.
  • Never force things, no walks, food, no grooming
  • Offer encouragement when you see signs of progress, but be careful not to overwhelm them with attention
  • Try and make the area that they are in as quiet as possible by moving slowly and avoiding noisy activities
  • Make a safe place for the dog, like a dog house or covered dog crate in a quiet, secluded area
  • Keep them in a quiet area and don’t allow other people to disturb them
  • Give them a special toy or stuffed animal to sleep with, they will find comfort in this
  • Make sure they have a comfortable bed, see some here


Owning a dog can be very rewarding. Keeping them comfortable is a top priority and we hope that these tips helped to educate you on what not to do when your pet is scared.