The fear and anxiety our pets might have around strangers is not uncommon, and can be caused by several factors. Today we’re unpacking why your pet is anxious, signs to look out for and how you can help.
Reasons for your pet being anxious
Dogs – Certain breeds of dogs might be more skittish or timid. These breeds include: Yorkshire Terriers, Greyhounds, Dalmatians, Beagles, and more.
Cats – Cats have different and unique personalities, some may be outgoing and energetic, whilst others might be more shy and nervous.
Lack of socialisation – If your pet didn’t have a lot of contact with strangers as a puppy or kitten, they can develop a fear that they carry through their life.
Dogs and cats that have been mistreated previously
Signs your pet is anxious or scared
- Barking or growling
- Running away
- Tail wagging
- Running away
- Trying to appear smaller
- Arched back
How to help your pet
Stay relaxed and patient
If you’re out on a walk and you feel your dog getting anxious, your instinct might be to tighten the lead. It’s important to stay relaxed and soothe your dog to ensure the environment is friendly and calm.
If your dog is scared of strangers, do not force them to engage as this could lead to your dog getting agitated and acting out.
It might feel frustrating when you don’t see any improvement in your cat’s fear of strangers, but you have to be patient. Let your cat come out of their shell in their own time and don’t force any interaction they won’t feel comfortable with.
Prepare your guests
If you’re planning on having visitors at your house, make sure to let them know in advance that your pet is scared of strangers. Ask them to not pick up your cat or try to pet your dog, instead let your pet come to them.
If you notice any of the signs listed above, remove your pet from the situation and consider putting your pet into a safe and comfortable space to calm down.
Finding a suitable dog trainer can help you understand your dog better and learn how to manage situations where they are fearful.
The trainer can also recommend different methods to help you manage your dog’s fear of strangers, such as a wire basket muzzle.
You can train your cat to be around strangers with behaviour modification, such as overlearning and positive reinforcement.
Easing your cat into interactions by creating distance between them and your visitor, and slowly instigating a meeting, will help ease your cat’s nerves. You can reward their behaviour with treats and play-time.