top of page
  • Writer's pictureToby

Fear, Anxiety, Stress

If your dog is worried about children, new people or new dogs, please give them space. Don't force them to engage as you will only make it worse....

I am getting more and more messages from clients with dogs that are showing signs of FAS - Fear, Anxiety, Stress. These signs could be anything from shaking, hiding, avoiding, lip licking and barking to growling and actual biting. This may be occurring with unfamiliar (or familiar) dogs, adults, or children. It can even be occurring within the family.

Some important points to remember:

  1. Your dog is not a reflection of you. Dogs are sentient beings who can think and feel for themselves. It does not mean that you are a bad dog guardian or that the dog is a bad dog. Dogs always have a reason for behaviour and your dog is clearly not coping in this situation.

  2. Forcing your dog to interact will only make it worse. Your dog will not suddenly feel better about this situation just because you want it to. Your dog needs to feel safe. This usually means distance, choice, and agency over the environment. Also, ongoing, and careful management.

  3. Dogs are all individuals. Genetics, early learning, past experiences, and current environment all affect how a dog copes – or does not cope - as the case may be. Not every dog will automatically feel comfortable around children or strangers, and we cannot expect that they will. They may have had bad experiences previously or they may have had none. Over socialisation (also called flooding) or lack of appropriate socialisation (gradual exposure at your dog’s pace and in its own time) can both result in FAS

  4. Behaviour will often escalate unless addressed properly. Dogs are always communicating through body language. If we are not ‘listening’ to the body language the dog may feel the need to escalate. In the words of the amazing Chirag Patel, ‘if we do not listen when dogs are whispering, they may feel the need to scream or shout at us’ They have no other way to communicate. Growling and biting are just forms of dog ‘shouting.’

  5. Understanding dog body language is necessary for all dog guardians. Miscommunication between humans and dogs is the cause of great angst. Dogs do not do things ‘to get back at us. They are just trying to navigate our human world in the best way they can. It is important we look at things through the dog’s eyes and not through human eyes. There can be a variety of reasons for behaviour.

  6. It will not ‘just get better.’ Your dog will not ‘grow out of’ this behaviour. Hoping your dog will simply stop doing this behaviour is like me expecting to win Lotto when I don’t buy any tickets. It is not going to happen. Dogs grow into behaviour, not out of it.

  7. Eliminate health issues. Pain and discomfort affect behaviour and visa versa. A Vet check is always a priority. If your dog is not feeling well, health will need to be addressed before trying to change behaviour.

  8. Do not use punishment. Behaviour suppressed does not mean it has been addressed. Aggression begets aggression.

  9. You may need professional help and that is ok. The world of behaviour is always changing and growing. Even if you have ‘had dogs all your life’ it may still be a good idea to find out what the current science is advising. Contact your nearest professional positive reinforcement trainer. Do it sooner rather than later…

Cheers, Toby xx


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page