More about Nervous and Fearful Behaviour in Dogs
In most cases of fearful behaviours in dogs, the dog is showing a normal adaptive response in the circumstances. A fear response is considered abnormal when it is extreme in intensity or duration and is maladaptive for the dog.
What is fear?
Fear is an aversive emotional state consisting of psychological and psychophysiological responses to an external threat or danger that is perceived as real by the fearful individual.
Fears are recognised across many species and are considered adaptive. Defending oneself against offensive or dangerous stimuli increases chance of survival!
Anxiety may occur in the aftermath of a fear-producing event or result of unrelated environmental changes that are unpredictable.
Popular diagnostic terminology uses the terms fear and anxiety interchangeably but does not necessarily strictly adhere to the scientific definitions above.
It is essential to take a moment to appreciate that some of the effects of developmental or sensitive periods may be mitigated.
No breed or gender predilection has genuinely been identified for fear-related problems.
Fears often develop in adolescence or at the onset of social maturity (typically between 1 and 2 years of age and social maturity reached at the age of 3-4 years)
However, onset may be associated with a traumatic event at any age.
Although some dogs are born with a genetic predisposition toward fearfulness, most fears that we encounter in dogs are due to experiences that they've had during their lifetime or experiences that they've failed to have at certain times in their development. Probably the most important single factor in whether a dog develops into a confident or a fearful animal is his early socialisation.
Much of what we know about the amygdala and its role in emotional learning and memory comes from fear conditioning. Pathways from the thalamus to the amygdala are particularly crucial in emotional learning.