7 Reasons Why Your Dog Cowers (+4 Helpful Tips)

Categorized as Why Does My Dog
why does my dog cower

Some dog owners often wonder why their dogs seem to cower and try to hide or crawl under a table even if there is no threat identified.

Dogs cower when they are scared, anxious, or uncomfortable. Some dogs may cower because they have scary things in the past and ready to cower again if they just see something slightly similar. Other dogs may cower because they have an illness or injury or because it is in their genetics.

It can be difficult for owners to know how to help their dog feel better when they’re being so submissive and showing signs of fear by curling up into themselves, but luckily there are some things you can do to make them feel more comfortable.

Why Does My Dog Cower?

There are many possible reasons why your dog cowers, here’s a list of the most common ones:

1. Your Dog Was Abused or Mistreated

Although being mistreated is not the sole reason for a cowering dog, but it’s still possible that a dog that is cowering has a history of being abused.

Many dogs don’t show any sign that they’re being ill-treated until something triggers them and makes them feel threatened in the same way as before. This would be more likely if the dog is cowered when a certain person is around.

If you notice changes in your dog’s behavior after seeing a certain person who has had some sort of interaction with them, such as giving commands they’ve never heard before or just touching their food bowl without warning, then you should be concerned.

This type of behavior can also happen when other people come into the house unexpectedly, including friends and family members, if there’s been an incident involving those individuals that caused anxiety for your dog in the past.

2. Your Dog Is Not Properly Socialized

In most cases, however, the reason why your dog cowers is that they lack socialization or have negative experiences during their early socialization period. As a result, these dogs are not sure how to act around strangers, and they are afraid of being approached for fear of another negative experience.

Dogs that lack socialization tend to be more reactive, fearful, or aggressive towards unfamiliar people or surroundings in order to defend themselves from threats.

3. It’s Simply In Their Genetics

Sometimes the reason why your dog cowers is simply that they are genetically fearful. For example, a particular dog, such as some small dogs, was bred to be docile, not strong, and athletic. This means that they can easily be overwhelmed and intimidated.

If you notice your small dog starts shaking or trembling while out walking together, don’t take them any closer to whatever source they seem so fearful of – just turn around and head back home instead.

4. They’re Afraid of You

Another possible reason why your dog cowers is that they are afraid of you. That’s not a good sign because it means that your dog doesn’t feel safe around you and is probably frightened by their environment due to the lack of trust in humans.

If this is the case, there may be another reason why your dog reacts like this: The owner behaves aggressively towards them without any warning or provocation (e.g., shouting, yelling, or scolding).

Together with cowering, a scared dog also often shows signs of nervous and erratic behavior, such as tensing up their muscles to avoid contact with humans, such as turning away from people they don’t know, and even to the extent of attacking people or other pets who pass by too closely.

It pains me to think that some people take their anger out on their dogs. Since we know dogs live for their owners, I just don’t understand why some people do this.

5. They’re Uncomfortable with Petting

While some dogs love to be petted, other dogs may not be so enthusiastic about it, especially not from a stranger. It can be awkward for your dog to have people touch them all over their body, especially when they’re not expecting it or if the person pets them in an uncomfortable way (e.g., too hard).

6. It Could Be a Learned Behavior

When dogs learned that cowering got their owner’s attention, they are more likely to repeat the same action. If a dog learned to use this tactic when reprimanded for something they did wrong, it could be hard to break them of that habit–even if you’re now trying to reward your dog with treats instead of scolding him.

At this point, it’s best to ask for help from a certified dog trainer or a dog behaviorist.

7. Your Dog is Ill or Sick

It could be that the reason your dog is cowering has to do with your dog’s physical health. Dogs might react this way if they’re ill or sick, and it could be a sign of more serious problems.

If you think there might be an underlying medical condition responsible for your dog’s sudden cowering, see a veterinarian right away.

What You Can Do About Your Dog’s Cowering Behavior?

A dog’s body language is an important indicator of their emotional state and physical well-being, so it’s essential to understand what your canine companion might be trying to tell you when they cower.

There are many reasons that may lead a dog to behave in this way – from feeling anxious or afraid due to being bullied by other doggos at the park, for example, or even feeling threatened by loud noises like fireworks.

Here are a few tips on how to help your dog:

1. Socialize Your Dog

Having your dog get along with other dogs will make your life so much easier. When you go outside with your dog, you won’t have to worry about your dog cowering in despair when another dog passes or snapping at another dog in the park.

The first step is to allow other dogs to interact with them in a controlled setting like an obedience class or dog park. That way they’ll learn how to navigate social situations without fear.

While some breeds may be naturally more skittish than others, there are plenty of ways you can help any dog find confidence and face new things calmly: provide your dog with enrichment activities and relationship-based training, desensitize your dog, and train your dog using positive reinforcement.

2. Train Your Dog Using Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can be used to train any new behavior, no matter how big or small. It is a positive way to help your dog feel more confident and happy in the world by rewarding them for good behaviors with praise, treats, toys, or playtime!

Here are some quick steps to train your dog to stop cowering:

  • Give your dog rewards for non-fearful behaviors like sitting, looking at you, or interacting with other dogs. This could be anything from a treat to playtime!
  • Teach them the “sit” command.
  • Once your dog is able to sit at your command, start working on teaching them how to respond calmly and confidently in situations with strangers.
  • Praise your dog any time they sit around people without fear. For example, if someone approaches them: say their name, praise them (“good boy!”), then reward them with treats or toys as soon as they sit down next to you.

3. Don’t Punish Your Dog Instead, Withhold Rewards and Attention.

If your dog does something that you don’t want, don’t punish your dog, instead, withhold rewards and attention. This will encourage your dog to abandon these unwanted behaviors.

Punishing your dog physically and verbally will not only traumatize them but can also make them aggressive towards you. Furthermore, dogs trained in such a way are more likely to develop aggressive behavior.

Instead of punishing your dog, you can instead use a reward-based training method.

4. Get Help From Pet Trainers, Vets, or Other Professionals

In any case, if you’re still unsure of why your dog is acting this way, it’s best to consult a vet, pet trainer, or other professionals.

Related Questions

1. Why Does My Dog Cower When I Come Home?

The primary reason why your dog cowers when you come home is that he or she is scared of your reaction. They might sense something is off with you or they might have done something wrong in the past because of which you yelled at them and they repeated the same thing again.

In any situation, it’s best to correct them in a gentle manner instead of punishing them, the pros will outweigh the cons

2. Why Does My Dog Cower When I Raise My Hand?

Many times, the reason why your dog cowers when you raise your hand near them because they have been mistreated at some point. It is also possible that the dog has a naturally shy personality.

If you have a shy dog, the best way to help your dog to gain confidence is to expose them to what frightens them at a low intensity. The goal is to pair this exposure with something positive, like a tasty treat or toy. This way your dog will learn to associate the source of their anxiety with good things.

3. Why Does My Dog Cower and Pee?

Your dog cowers and pee at the same time when he is feeling afraid and intimidated. And this happens because your dog feels like he needs to show submission as a way of communicating that they’re not going to hurt or challenge their humans or pack leader.

4. Why Is My Dog Avoiding Me All of a Sudden?

There can be many reasons why a dog may start avoiding their owner. It’s important to rule out any physical causes first, such as an injury or illness. Once those are ruled out, it’s possible the dog is experiencing depression or trauma related to a previous event.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.