Updated: Aug 1, 2019
WHAT IS A PHOBIA?
A Phobia is an extreme fear or level of anxiety which is triggered by a particular stimulus, even when that stimulus poses no actual threat or danger. Sound phobias is one of the most common phobias found in dogs. Examples of this include thunderstorms, gunshots, fireworks and smoke alarms. Situational phobias are also common which include separation anxiety. Fears of strangers and dogs also commonly develop into phobias.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FEAR AND A PHOBIA
When the level of anxiety or fear becomes out of proportion to the level of danger, and it has a significant impact on day to day activities then it has become a phobia. This level of fear goes beyond a rational response. American Kennel Club Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr J Klein, describes a phobia as:
“an intense and persistent fear that occurs when a dog is confronted with something that they might feel threatening, such as a thunderstorm. Some dogs even anticipate it.”
They develop as the result of an adverse past experience which can be a single exposure or repeated exposures to the stimulus which the dog perceives as aversive. Remember, it is not about what we perceive as threatening... it's what the dog believes!
Phobia’s are often treatable but require careful management. Where it is suspected that a dog is suffering from a phobia then it is important for referral to an experienced, force-free professional for diagnosis and guidance.
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