Yesterday I was at the park when we ran into a very nice guy with his dog. We've met and talked to them before so I knew that his dog was fearful. But, as we approached his little dog seemed very interested, happy interested in Luke and Elsa. Perhaps he remembered them from before; I know that my guys only need to meet someone once and they are forever in their memory bank. So it could have been that and the signals that both Luke and Elsa were giving off that created his non fearful reaction. Whatever the cause it was nice for him and his owner to be able to enjoy a non reactive interaction.
Fear is a powerful emotion; it can create behaviors that seem unrelated and confusing. It does not always cause a dog to run and hide; it can in fact be hard to see. I have written many times before about how Luke turns into Cujo at the Veterinarians office. When we go in he is fine until a person shows up; then he pulls on his mean and scary suit and begins his attempts at keeping everyone away. Now, anyone who knows Luke, knows that this is not Luke at all. He is one of the most loving, emotional and wonderful guys that you will ever meet. But he is afraid at the vets so he tries to keep everyone away. Not too many people, including most of the workers at various vet offices understand this.
Fear can come from the unknown or from a bad or scary association. A great deal of aggression stems from fear in dogs; they cannot explain how they are feeling so they often resort to the "keep'm away" tactic that Luke uses at the vets. Sadly this fearful aggression is often met with anger from an owner and surrounding people. But fear can be conquered, not always completely but you can most definitely help it.
I have met many people who think a dog must have been hit or beaten in their previous life. Rescue dogs can show fear which humans tend to interpret as having been hit. When the more likely culprit is lack of socialization. A lack of socialization can leave a dog with severe fearful behaviors. Dogs that duck when someone reaches out to pet them, or growls at another dogs approach; both can be caused by fear of the unknown.
Each and every dog is different so they are never going to act the same. Two dogs living the exact same lives, identical lack of socialization may react completely different. When a dog is fearful of things, environments or situations you may never know why or what caused it. But there is a very good chance that it is a fear of the unknown. The little dog that we met in the park yesterday was a perfect example. He comes across as aggressive on first meeting but he is in fact a very nice little guy once you get past the fear reaction.
Fear is hugely powerful, never underestimate it or brush it off. It is real, very real and needs addressing. Not in a harsh "knock it off" manner but a kind, gentle and patient form. Fear needs assistance to disappear and be a thing of the past.