How Dogs Say – "I'm Fearful"
Dogs can be confident, outgoing, and gregarious at home, and then be fearful or unsure when they are taken out of their comfort zone and placed into new situations. Many owners who adopt rescue dogs wonder if the fearful dog has been abused, but in most cases their fearful response is due to a lack of socialization.
When your dog is fearful he will attempt to move away or increase space between him and whatever is causing his fear. His tail will be tight around his rectum. It may even be tucked up into his stomach. His ears will be flat against his skull and his head will be lowered while his body is cowered. He will avoid eye contact and look away. He is likely to freeze, be unwilling to walk forward, and may display decreased activity. Depending on the level of fear your dog is experiencing he may also bark, growl, or snap. His behavior is an attempt to avoid further conflict and increase personal space.
If your dog eats well at home but refuses to eat, take a treat, or respond to simple cues when visiting the kennel or greeted by a child, he may be afraid.
When your dog displays fearful behavior it is best to remove the item evoking the fear. Let him know you understood what he was saying and advocate for him so his behavior does not progress. If the item cannot be removed, you should remove your dog from the situation. Fearful dogs can be taught to be unafraid of these situations. They need time to adjust on their own. A professional dog trainer can assist you in modifying your dog's response during these situations.
Flooding your dog by over-exposing him to the fearful situation and/or correcting him when he barks, growls, or snaps is likely to increase his stress level and make the situation worse. You will not make your dog more fearful by telling him he is okay or removing him from the situation until you can obtain further help from a professional dog trainer.